Tivo, Spain — August 18, 2017

Again I am writing with Microsoft Word in the hope of uploading this blog entry later this morning at a café on the way. There is theoretically Internet access here at the Cartro Canos Café y Albergue in Tivo, but it is so slow as to be unusable. I can barely access the blog site, and uploading pictures or writing is impossible. I would like to catch up on the Trump news, but the connection is too slow for even that.

[Later, I was, however, able to follow the terrible terrorist attacks in and near Barcelona.]

I cycled directly north on the N550 highway yesterday. I left Redondela at about 8:30 am after breakfasting and updating my blog at a café across the highway from the hostel. When I started cycling, the light was still not very bright, but I had a blinking taillight and was able to cycle on the highway’s shoulder almost the whole way. The street was narrow in Redondela and again in Pontevedra, where I arrived at about 10:30. Pntevedra would have been a sensible place to stop for a pilgrim on foot, but of course, on the bike I make a lot better time.

About halfway to Pontevedra, I crossed a bridge where I stopped and snapped the following picture. I wish I could tell you the name of the river, but without reliable Internet access I cannot look it up.

Leaving Pontevedra, I passed a DIA supermarket, one of the biggest chains in Spain, where I bought two bananas and some chocolate croissants for second breakfast. As I sat on the curb of the parking lot eating, and old man passed carrying his basket of groceries to his car. ¿Alemán? he asked me. German? I told him I was from the USA, and he said I looked light skinned like a German. Are Germans lighter skinned than the rest of us of European descent? One thing I like about Spain is that, being fluent in Spanish, I can gossip with all the locals along the way.

Some enterprising locals make a business of setting up a temporary café along the Camino and selling refreshments and snacks to the pilgrims. The pilgrims are grateful for the break. Of course, everyone who wants the pilgrims’ business offers to stamp the pilgrim passport, the document that is required to stay in the pilgrim’s hostels and which will get you a certificate of having completed the Camino when you reach Santiago if you have at least two stamps in it for each day that you walked the final 100 kilometers. Businesses along the way are grateful for the requirement.

Here’s a picture of the awning of a sandwich shop that I passed. I was struck by the name, O’Peereio. If the O in front of the name looks a bit Irish, it’s because the Galician region of Spain was settled by Celts, even if the modern Galician language is derived from Latin

Usually, the path that the pilgrims on foot walked was away from the highway, but there were times when they were forced to share the shoulder with me and my bike. The pilgrims in the following picture had just crossed the highway to the opposite shoulder. A bit further on, they left the highway on a cobblestone path to the left.

Below is a picture of the hostel where I am staying. If it looks like it’s way out in the country, I suppose that it once was. However, this little village of Tivo is surrounded by the sprawl that extends from the nearby town of Caldas de Reis, even though the latter reportedly only has about 7,000 inhabitants.

After I showered and changed clothes, I thought I’d better wash some clothes. When I asked where to do it, I was told in Spanish, “Here we wash the traditional way, out in the fountain in the hamelt’s square.”Here’s a picture of my laundry spread out ready to wash including my Arizona State University cycling jersey.

To anyone thinking of following in my wheel tracks, I say that cycling in Spain is very safe. There are rare exceptions, but for the most part, Spanish drivers are very respectful of cyclists and their right to the road. Big semi trucks will pull way to the left to pass a cyclist, and if there isn’t room to do that, they will slow down and patiently drive behind you at your pace until it is safe to pass. I wish I could say the same about Arizona motorists.

Redondela, Spain — August 17, 2017

I’m starting to write this the night of the 16th on Microsoft Word to upload on the 17th whenever I find a café with WiFi. There is no useable WiFi here at the hostel. There is a WiFi service of the type where you have to give the company your cell phone number, and in return you receive a text message with your login and password. Then they have your phone number and can send unlimited spam text messages. However, I was willing to undergo even that to get on the Internet, but after following the procedure, I received no text message. Perhaps they don’t want USA cell phone numbers.

On that subject, I am using Google’s Project Fi cellular service, which works worldwide, and I am very pleased. If I’m connected to WiFi, calls to the USA and Canada are free. Calls inside North America are all free, and calls made in Europe using the cellar network are 20 cents a minute. Cellular data costs $10 US per gigabit worldwide, and there’s a credit carried over for all unused data. Many times I have been in a place where I could not connect to WiFi, and I’ve been glad to be able to connect to the Internet to plot a course to a destination on Google Maps, and despite that, I have yet to use a whole dollar’s worth of data.

The downside is that it only works with Android phones, officially only with Google phones, but I managed to get a free SIM card from Project Fi and get an old Samsung Android phone to work. I’m not trying to sell the service, but if someone refers you who is already a customer, you get a credit ($20, I think) on the first month’s bill. If you’re interested in a referral from me, email me at jack (at) azroadcyclist (dot) com.

Back to the Camino. I road yesterday from Tui here to Rodondela. I stopped early, because I have learned that the pilgrim’s hostels start filling up as soon as they open. I’m staying at Casa da Torre Rondela, which you have probably figured out is Galician for House of the Round Tower. It is a Xunta hostel, pictured below, and run by the Region of Galicia and very cheap, five euros for the bed plus the obligatory purchase of a disposable bed sheet and pillow case for another euro.

I did not realize it when I registered, but the Xunta hostels will not accept cyclists until everyone else is accommodated, and the woman working registration said later that she did not realize that I was a cyclist. As I was already registered, she said I could stay if no one complained. So far, no one has, and there is a sign hanging outside the hostel stating that it is full, so I think I’m safe. I’m going to avoid Xunta hostels from now on.

I left Tui yesterday without breakfast and didn’t find an open café until I reached the outskirts of Porriño almost 10 kilometers from the start. I ordered a coffee, and I was served two small cakes with it. So I ordered another round, and those two coffees plus four tiny cakes were breakfast.
Below is a picture of my bike patiently waiting for me outside the café.

When I reached the hostel here, it was not yet open, but there was a line of backpacks before the door. At the front of the line, I recognized the sign from the Italian woman who gave me a free hug two nights ago. She had left her backpack in line to go see the town, but when she returned to check in, she immediately opened her arms and gave me another hug. Now that I think of it, the only hugs I received while walking the Camino francés a few years ago were also from Italian women. Hugging must be an Italian thing. If so, it’s a big plus for Italian culture.

The only other picture I have to share today is the one below of one of the buildings in the center of Redondela.

Tui, Spain — August 16, 2017

I left Ponte de Lima, Portugal yesterday before 7 am thinking that I had a rough road ahead of me. The road between Ponte Lima and Rubiães crosses a mountain pass, and I had been warned that the climb was very tough. That turned out to not be the case. The road did climb for kilometer after kilometer, but the climb was gradual, and there was very little traffic. The N201 is a national highway, but there is now a limited-access highway running almost parallel to it, which takes most of the north-south traffic. In case anyone else is contemplating cycling the N201, below is a picture of what it looked like. I snapped the picture after crossing the pass over the mountains.

Breakfast was served at the hostel at 8:30 am, which was much too late for me. I arranged he night before for a sack breakfast to be waiting for me at the reception desk, and I ate it before leaving the hostel just before 7 am. It wasn’t much, so after riding over the pass, I stopped at a café for some coffee, without which I have a difficult time starting my day. Here’s what the café looked like from the outside. It was before Rubiãs, just after I had enjoyed a long downhill descent from the mountains.

If it looks like a farmer’s café out in the countryside, that’s exactly what it was. Of course, there was no chance that anyone there spoke English, but I managed to get by in my basic Portuguese and finally get a café americano.

In Rubiãs itself, I stopped again for another cup of coffee and a second breakfast. After I ordered in Portuguese, the man behind the counter responded in perfect English.

Below is a picture of what the “countryside” looked like after I got out of the mountains. While crossing the mountains, I really did feel that I was out in the countryside in the middle of the woods, but the lowland areas are very built up.

It was too early when I arrived in Rubiães to stop, so I decided to continue to Valença, the last city on the Portuguese side of the Spanish border. I passed through the town of Pedreira when I had a decision to make. The map showed the N201 curving to the left and joining the highway N13, which looked on the map like an important highway and could be carrying heavy traffic. The map also showed a rural road, which not only promised to be quieter but also shorter.

I’ve learned not to trust Portuguese farm roads. They are usually paved with cobblestones, have incredibly steep hills, and turn into dirt tracks without warning. So, I decided to get some local advice about whether the road was passable on a heavily-burdened road touring bike.

I spotted two gentlemen and asked them if they spoke English. They told me that they did. They didn’t! So, in basic Portuguese I asked them if the rural road to Valença was doable on my bike. They said that the road didn’t go to Valença and that I would have to take the main highway. That wasn’t what the map showed. Then they told me they would get a man who spoke better English. He didn’t! However, he did know the road and told me in Portuguese slowly enough for me to understand that the road was perfectly suited to my bike and added information about which turns to take. That turned out to be true. The road was perfect for cycling.

Just to prove I did make it to Valença, I took this picture at the city limits.

I decided that rather than stay in Valença, I would cycle across the bridge to its sister city, Tui in Spain. Here’s a picture of the  bridge. There is a second bridge for the freeway a bit to the left of this one.

As you can see, there was no room for cars to pass me as I cycled across the bridge,  but that wasn’t necessary. Traffic was slow enough that I was able to keep pace with the cars in front of me. In any case, motorists in this part of the road respect cyclists’ right to the road and are willing to follow a cyclist for a considerable distance waiting for a chance to pass.

The municipal pilgrim’s hostel in Tui is located behind this Roman style cathedral shown below. It was only noon, and I was early, so I was sure of getting a bunk. No! It wasn’t noon. When I had cycled across the bridge, I had also cycled into a different time zone. It was 1 pm in Spain.

The Camino must be very busy, the señora at the reception desk pointed to a sign saying completo, full. I asked her which pilgrim’s hostel she would recommend, and she touted the Alberque Villa de San Clemente. I asked her if she thought there was room, and she offered to phone ahead for me.

I’m glad that she did, because when I arrived here, the door was locked and there was a sign outside reading completo. Not again? However, I rang the bell several times, and finally a man opened the door. I mentioned that I was the cyclist that the Municipal Hostel had phoned him about, and he invited me in. He had saved me a bed. Like most Spanish, he was very friendly and greeted me as if I were an old friend.

This hostel is pretty snazzy and very spacious. Here’s a picture of the garden behind it or the “back yard,” as we Americans would call it. The path leading to the back in lined with large stone statues.

Yesterday was a religious holiday of some sort in Tui. I don’t know what was celebrated, but just before sunset there was a large procession of inhabitants, all carrying candles. They were proceeded by a band playing bagpipes and drums, very related to Irish and Scottish music and in tune with the Gaelic roots of this part of Spain, called Galicia. Later in the procession four men carried a life-sized statue of a religious figure.

I’m uploading this blog entry before leaving Tui. I don’t know how far I will cycle today. I only have two weeks left before my plane leaves from Madrid, and I would like to visit Finisterre, which some Europeans once believed was the end of the Earth. I would also like to spend a few days in Santiago and a few in Madrid before I fly home. I also have to keep in mind that I crossed into a different time yesterday, and the sun will come up an hour later today than it did in Portugal.

I’ve pretty much decided to abandon my trusty old Trek touring bike in Santiago. It is about 40 years old and has served me well, but it isn’t worth the cost and hassle of transporting it by train to Madrid and then flying it back to the States. I have too many old bikes in my house that I should have gotten rid of decades ago.

Ponte de Lima, Portugal — August 15, 2017

After I upload this blog entry, I’m headed north on the bike and hope to at least reach the town of Rubiães still in Portugal. Instead of waiting until 8:30 for the hostel to serve breakfast, I’m taking breakfast with me in a plastic bag to eat on the way. If things go well, today will be my last full day in Portugal. I should cycle across the border into Spain tomorrow.

Perhaps I should have ridden yesterday instead of stopping a day here, it was not as hot yesterday as the day before, especially in the morning when the sky was overcast for a change. However, I’m glad I spent a day walking around the Old City. When I do these pilgrimages, too often I walk or cycle through a community without getting to know it.

Almost all of the old buildings in the city are in the Old Town and only a few blocks from each other, clustered around this side of the Medieval Bridge. The building pictured below is the Torre São Paulo or Saint Paul’s Tower. It’s one of the remnants of the old city wall, constructed in the 1500s.

You’ll note the woman walking down the staircase near the top. The staircase leads to a locked door. If the door had been open to the public, I would have walked up there for a look around.

People were crowding around to get their pictures taken with a bronze statue of a bull, so naturally I fell in with the crowd and asked a Spanish woman if she would take my photo. On one of my walks on the Camino francés two years ago, my longtime cycling buddy Ed McGee remarked that I have too many “bronze friends.” I guess I do have a habit of having my picture taken with statues.

As you can see, the downtown area of Ponte de Lima is quite attractive with many beautiful buildings and a few small, well-kept parks. I didn’t find the outskirts that attractive, but then, the suburbs around most cities tend to be bland.

There are a number of churches in Ponte de Lima, but this is the main one. It is the Church of Our Lady of the Guia, whose construction began in the 17th Century. Like almost all ancient churches in Europe, it was built onto and modified during the years, so it has a mixture of architectural styles.

I took this photo inside the church using my cell phone. I am finding that my cell phone takes clearer pictures than my digital camera, and the cell phone will also take photos in dim light without a flash. The only thing that keeps me from throwing my camera away and using my cell phone for everything is that its battery charge will not make it through a day of heavy use.

This ancient clockwork was on display inside the church. No, it was not operating. I could find no information on where the clockwork came from. That tiny clock dial is much too small to have been in the church tower.

PS/I didn’t get a chance to upload this until Rubiães, so I’m here, and it’s not yet 10 am. The route through the mountains was much less difficult than I had feared, so I’m going to try to reach the Spanish border today.

Ponte de Lima, Portugal — August 14, 2017

Every day when I type the date in my blog, it reminds me of how fast time is passing. I have a bit over two weeks left in my trip. There is not time enough to do everything I want to do, but at least I should reach Santiago de Compostela with ample time to take a train to Madrid and my flight home, even at the slow pace I am cycling.

The  bike ride from Barcelos here to Ponte de Lima was not as pleasant as I might have hoped. The area between the two cities is very built-up with heavy car traffic and narrow roads. I started by taking a rural road, but I was soon put off by the rough cobblestones and by the fact that some of those country roads are unbelievably steep, and they are not even very rural. I finally decided to take the highway. I should have learned that lesson the day before.

The picture below will give you an idea of the congestion on the roads. The cars in the picture are the tail end of a long line of stopped traffic. They creep forward a few feet from time to time. At times I was able to ride my bike to the right of the line of traffic and pass a whole string of cars. At other times, the road was too narrow for me to do that. When one driver tries to make a left turn, traffic can back up behind it for blocks.

I think the fact that it was hot contributed to my negative attitude about the crowded conditions. By Phoenix standards it was not hot, but by the standards of Portugal, it was quite toasty. Of course, I was dripping wet from sweat. I could have rung out my cycling jersey. When I arrived, the first thing I did was get a shower, put on dry clothes and wash out my cycling jersey and shorts. I wonder how I smelled to the receptionist when I checked in.

At one point, a group of cyclists ahead of me abandoned the highway and made for a parallel closed-off pedestrian street, and I followed them. This is the pedestrian way below. Despite riding at a walking pace, I made better time there than I did on the road. Foot traffic in this mall was light, because it was Sunday and most stores were closed. However, the pedestrian mall ended, and soon I was back out in slowly-moving traffic.

I took the picture below a bit earlier on the ride north. I can’t tell you what the building is, but I was impressed by the tile roof and the tiny fake turrets at the corners of the roofs of the two mini-towers. The building’s style struck me as symbolic of Portugal: a modern country whose architecture is sometimes still influenced by the past.

Below is a picture of my bike parked outside the café where I had breakfast. I ordered a giant crescent roll, the largest one I have ever seen, plus a cup of coffee. Together they made a meal. The bill came to 1.95 euros or about $2.30 in US currency. Portugal is without a doubt the cheapest European country I have ever visited, although I’m told that parts of Eastern Europe are even more economical.

Oh, in the picture, those two bright spots to the left of one of the posts are the reflectors on my pannier bags shining in the sun. You might also make out that they are attached to my bike, which is leaning against the post. You should be able to click on any of the photos in this blog to see them in a larger format in high resolution.

Below is a picture of the old stone bridge across the Lima River here in Ponte de Lima. Ponte is Portuguese for bridge, so it is evident the city took its name from the bridge. Ponte de Lima claims to be the oldest town in Portugal. According to what I read in some local tourist office propaganda, this old bridge was once the only way to cross the Lima River, so traffic congregated here, and the town grew up around the bridge. Teresa, Countess of Portugal, signed the town’s charter on March 4, 1125 according to one of the municipality’s publicity pamphlets.

Incidentally, the Lima River gets good use as a recreational resource. I walked though the riverside park this afternoon and saw people kayaking. On the opposite bank of the river there is a swimming beach, which from the distance looked to be very crowded. There was a Sunday afternoon market in progress in the riverside park, and I had hopes of finding a food stand, but no one was selling prepared food. My original goal was to walk to a mini-market that Google Maps showed at a 15 minute walk from the hostel where I am staying. However, when I got there, there was no market. I’ve seldom known Google Maps to be wrong, but this time it was.

One good thing that came out of my walk is that I found a Korean store that sells almost any sort of physical item you might want from clothing to cell phone covers to hardware. I have been losing the adapters that I brought with me from the States that convert the European electrical outlets to the American plugs on my electronic devices. Occasionally while charging my cell phone or computer in a café, I’ll pull the plug out and forget to pull the adapter out of the outlet. The Korean store had them, of course, so I bought three for 79 European cents each.

I also stumbled upon the local office of the Portuguese Communist Party. That’s what the letters PCP stand for. The office didn’t look very impressive. I think it only occupies the upper floor.

My final photograph is of a small shrine in a niche in a stone wall alongside a busy street. It is the type of shrine one finds often in formerly-Catholic countries. There are apparently still some believers, because someone place fresh flowers there. Just as in other industrialized countries, in Portugal the Catholic Church and religion in general have lost much of the respect that they once had.

There will be no cycling for Jack Quinn today. I’m spending another night here in Ponte Lima. I am in no rush to get to Santiago, and I want to spend a day enjoying this city. Tomorrow I will try to hit the road early and get a few kilometers under my wheels before the traffic gets too bad.

Barcelos, Portugal — Sunday August 13, 2017

I arrived in Barcelos early yesterday afternoon by bike, again riding mainly over cobblestone rural roads. I had been warned to avoid the national highway N306 due to heavy, high-speed traffic. However, I reached a point where I had to decide whether to take the highway or a pilgrim’s path through the woods. If I had been riding a mountain bike, I suppose I would have chosen the path, but I wasn’t sure my road touring bike could handle it, so I chose the “highway.”

It wasn’t nearly as bad as I had been led to believe. Motorists were very careful of cyclists, and I wasn’t the only cyclist on the road. It was more of a narrow, busy rural road that what we would call a highway in Arizona.

In addition to individual cyclists, there was a whole group of mountain bikers on the road. We continually passed each other, and it turned out that they were coming here to Barcelos for lunch at the restaurant next door to the pilgrim’s hostel before heading  back home.

Even the pilgrims on foot were frequently forced to walk the highway, and from talking to them, their experience was not as pleasant as mine. An Irishman I was just speaking to said most of the car traffic gave pilgrims little room.

Here’s one of the signs I ran into where the pilgrim’s path or camino joins the highway. On the bottom it reads, “Caution! Circulation of Pilgrims.” Those might not be the exact words we would use if we wrote the sign in English, but it basically means that pilgrims are walking in the road ahead.

Below is one of the villages I cycled past. I should have noted its name, but I did not. This whole area is thickly settled. So far I have not really had a sense of being out in the countryside, unlike when walked the Camino francés.

This ancient bridge leads into the town of Arcos. As you can see, my mountain biker friends went into town to explore, but I did not. I could have ridden into town and taken another exit to get back to the highway, but I was a bit tired of being jarred by cobblestones and was hoping to ride ahead and find a stretch of relatively smooth tarmac.

The guys who were riding here to eat yesterday dumped their bikes in the pilgrim’s hostel while they ate at the cafe next door. The hostel belongs to the town, but the owners of the cafe manage it. As you can imagine from the number of bikes, the restaurant was very crowded at lunch. I ate lunch there, too, delicious salmon with French fries preceded by a bowl of soup whose ingredients plus black olives and a salad of lettuce, tomato, and onion.

One last photo. My roommate’s girlfriend was carrying a sign saying “free hugs” in various languages. It turned out that in addition to Italian, she spoke a bit of French. Well, in any language, free is free and also irresistible. Her boyfriend snapped the picture, and he didn’t even punch me afterwards.

Varião, Portugal – August 12, 2017

It’s difficult for me to accept that one-third of my 30-day vacation has already passed, and only yesterday did I start bicycling the Camino Portugués. I didn’t even cycle the whole stretch. I decided that the best thing was to take public transport out of the city, and as bicycles are permitted on Porto’s metro, I used it to get outside the worst of the city traffic.

The least enjoyable part of the day’s journey was cycling from the hostel to the metro station in Porto. My Garmin Edge 1000 refused to give me directions, so I had to frequently stop and check the route on my cell phone using Google Maps. In addition to dealing with heavy traffic including frequent city buses, there was one hill so steep that I got off the bike and pushed up it. The old steel bike plus the four loaded panniers and the handlebar bag are very heavy.

Here’s my bike, finally on the metro train heading out of town.

After I got off the metro, cycling was slow, because most of the roads are narrow and paved with cobblestones. If I tried to ride too fast, the constant vibration became very annoying. I was glad to have a mirror attached to my cycling glasses to check for traffic from the rear. The locals drive these narrow roads at suicidal speed. However, most drivers, I would say nine out of ten, gave me lots of room when passing me. I wonder how long automobile suspension last in this area under these conditions.

Below is a picture of the outside gate of the converted monastery where I stayed last night. The orange stylized clamshell drawing is a symbol of the Camino. I didn’t frame the picture very well, because I was straddling my bike, which the overeager volunteer at the pilgrim’s hostel was trying to pull through the gate.

Out here in the sticks, almost no one speaks English, which is a big difference compared to Portugal’s cities, where it seems that almost everyone speaks it. I conversed with the volunteer who welcomed me in a mixture of broken Portuguese and broken English. Later a young couple arrived to take over the welcoming job, and they both speak perfect English. I had to search my limited Portuguese vocabulary in the local café to order a beer and a cheese sandwich. First, I went through the pilgrim ritual: I took a shower, and I washed my dirty clothes by hand and hung them on the clothesline outside to dry. No one doing the Camino carries much in the way of spare clothing, and I am no exception. After I spent a good part of the day pedaling my bike in the hot sun, I probably stank to high heavens when I arrived.

Beside the monastery there is an old but very ornate cemetery. I shot the picture of the arches in the cemetery from a nearby street. The white building on the right is part of the monastery complex.

I will have to find a place to upload this blog on the way today. May establishments here, as in the USA, advertise free WiFi. However, the monastery boasts that it is “Wifi free.”

Oh, I might as well show you the mess I made when I arrived fatigued at the monastery. Here’s a picture of my humble bunk with my junk piled on it and beside it. I had just arrived and thrown everything down when I snapped the picture. If you thought up to now that I might be a neatness freak, I hope this picture sets you straight.

How far will I get today? I have no idea. I am about to turn 75 years of age, and I think I’ve earned the right to lazily pedal along without trying to get in my 100 miles a day as I did when I was a 23-year-old pedaling through Europe. If I ride more than 20 miles tomorrow and then spend the afternoon reading, I will be perfectly happy.

Lisbon, Portugal — August 11, 2017

I didn’t think I would upload a blog post this morning, because I thought I would be in a rush to leave the hostel and start cycling north. However, there has been a slight change in plans. Instead of riding my bike down steep hills and pushing it up the other side trying to ride north out of the city in bumper-to-bumper car traffic, I’ve decided to take the metro to a station outside the city limits.

Today I did a dry run on foot and walked a bit over nine miles in the process. I walked to a metro station, rode the train, and made sure that it would be easy to get a bike on and off. It was a long walk to the metro station, over four miles, but tomorrow on the bike those four miles will go by more quickly. On the way to the metro station, I passed through part of the commercial district of Porto. In case you think that all of Porto consists of centuries-old, crumbling buildings, here’s a picture of a newer commercial district.

Another district that I walked through seemed to be a mixture of old and new. The turrets on top of more modern buildings are either fake, or they were preserved when an old building was modernized.

If you’re wondering why I included the following picture of the nameplate of a hotel, the hotel’s name caught my eye, Hotel Fénix. Fénix is, of course, the Portuguese spelling of Phoenix. Somehow I doubt that the hotel was named for the city that I live in. It was probably named for that dumb bird. Nevertheless, I prefer to think that the hotel owners named their hotel after the capital of the State of Arizona.

Here’s a picture verifying that bicycles can indeed ride on Porto’s metro trains. The train was more crowded when the cyclist first got on, and he had to repeatedly move his bike to get it out of the way of passengers who were getting on and off the train. I guess I’m willing to inconvenience a few people this morning with my bicycle, which will take up even more space, because it will have four pannier bags hanging on the side. I’ll be on the lookout to make sure that no one sticks their mitts in my luggage to rob something. That is probably much less likely here than in Paris.

Here is what a Porto metro train looks like from the outside. The metro trains run mostly at ground level. This is the station where I plan to get on the train this morning. There is a ramp leading up to the opposite platform that I could ride my bike up. How do I get from that platform to his one? There are walkways leading across the tracks. You look to make sure no train is coming and walk or ride your bike across from one platform to the other.

When I got to the station, I had to learn how to buy a ticket and how two navigate the system. The only other people on the platform were two elderly ladies, and I was pretty sure that they didn’t speak any of the languages that I speak, so I asked in my basic Portuguese. I was even able to understand their answers.

You buy a card from a vending machine. There are no ticket offices at most metro stops. You then load the card with the number of trips you want to take and how many zones you will travel through. I have the card now, and this morning I will load it with one ticket good for four zones.

Here’s a picture of a train coming into the station. There is a cyclist near the far end of the platform waiting to board. The rules state that you are supposed to roll your bike on the train through the doors at the rear end of the train, and he looks properly positioned to do that.

When I roll my bike off the metro train later this morning, I will be in the exurbs of the city, and I hope to spend the rest of the day calmly cycling rural roads. I believe I know how to get from the metro station to the Camino.

Porto, Lisbon — August 10, 2018

This is my last full day in Porto. Tomorrow I have to figure out how to get me and my heavily-laden bike out of town heading north. A Spanish pilgrim who has been doing the Camino Portugués from Lisbon on a bicycle said he thought he would take his bike on the subway to the edge of town. There are two problems with cycling with a loaded touring bike in Porto: the heavy traffic and the frequent, very steep hills.

I probably should have left today. For some reason, all of the people I have been hanging out with are leaving including all three of my roommates.

The hostel is full of little boys this morning. They are well-behaved but very noisy. They walk around in a group of about 20. They are outside waiting for the breakfast cafeteria to open, talking very loudly in a language that I do not understand. There seems to be no one supervising them. There are four adult men with them who appear to be Japanese, but they are staying well clear of the little boys. Here the are eating  breakfast.

I think it is wonderful that at least some school kids get to travel internationally these days, although I understand that only the children of people with money can do so. When I was the age of these boys, I had never been more than 60 miles (100 kilometers) away from home.

Yesterday, I walked into town to the cathedral and took the old-time tourist streetcar back home whose picture I included in  an earlier blog entry. On the way into town, I came across this old fortification on the hill above me.  I don’t know what it is or why it was built, and I wasn’t curious enough to climb up and investigate.

Downtown, tho Old City was jam-packed with tourists speaking every imaginable language. The following picture doesn’t really give a good idea of how many of them there were. I suppose as Portugal’s second-largest city, Porto is an important stop for anyone touring the country.

Below one of the wider streets in downtown Porto is pictured. There are streets so narrow that the driver of a small car passing through them has to be careful not to scrape the paint off the car on the buildings on either side. There are even narrower streets where no car could pass at all.

Below is a view of the cathedral that I was trying to reach. I took the photo from a neighboring hill. There would still be a lot of walking to reach the cathedral, because I would have to walk down a stoop hill and up the other side.

I couldn’t snap a picture of the outside of the cathedral, because there was no way to get far enough away to get all of the building in the frame. Had I tried, I would have fallen off the hill. I did take a picture of the inside. As European cathedrals go, this one is quite small. Construction of the original Romanesque cathedral started in about the year 1110. Additions and modifications carried out in the following centuries resulted in a building with a combination of Romanesque and Baroque styles.

As I walked back toward the hostel from downtown, I snapped this picture of a statue of the Infante Dom Henrique, o Navegador, better known in English as Prince Henry the Navigator. From my high school class in “world” history (it was really European history) I remember that Henry the Navigator was the person responsible for Portugal’s many sea voyages of discovery. Thanks to him Portugal learned to circumnavigate Africa and to sail to the New World. Perhaps the places that Portugal colonized are not so grateful.

Tomorrow I will probably not update the blog until I reach my destination in the afternoon. I will try to hit the road immediately after breakfast. Traffic is  bound to be heavy, and the streets of Porto are very narrow and hilly, so getting out of town will not likely to be pleasant. I am anxious to cycle through the countryside and small towns.

Porto, Portugal — August 9, 2017

I’m writing this entry on Wednesday morning, August 9, while I’m waiting for the cafeteria to open for breakfast, but the events I will describe took place yesterday. Let me start with the evening bull session, an important part of traveling.

André, the person to my right in the picture below is French but has lived in Brazil and speaks Portuguese fluently. He is one of my roommates, and he invited me to the hostel kitchen to drink green tea. The heavyset man to my left was one of my roommates the night before. He is Portuguese, but he is retired in France and speaks fluent Portuguese, French and Spanish. He has traveled the world. He learned his Spanish in Venezuela.

We settled on French for our bull session, because my French is passable, whereas my Portuguese is still in its infancy. I think by the time the evening was over, we had solved most of the world’s  problems.

The woman in the foreground is French, and at the table behind us is a group of university students from Lisbon. All but one are Portuguese. The outlier is a German with whom I had a brief conversation in his language before I realized that I was being impolite to the others, who did not understand.

When people ask me how I can stand to travel alone, the answer is that I am seldom alone. I make new acquaintances from all over the world. If I had always traveled by myself, I would probably only speak English today and have only a superficial idea of the countries I have visited.

The picture below is of breakfast here in the hostel in Porto. If people look a bit subdued, it is because we were just starting to drink our coffee. You may notice my heavy-set Portuguese friend in the green shirt. I had been sitting across from him before I got up to take this picture.

I didn’t spend all day in the hostel. Yesterday morning I left for a walk along the river that cuts through Porto. There are several bridges across the river. The one in the photo is the bridge closest to the ocean.

As you can see, Porto is quite hilly. For the athletic types, there are steps leading from the river bank up to the top of the bridge. Maybe I will give them a try today. My health insurance is paid up.

For those who prefer not to climb up to the bridge, a small ferry transports passengers across the river. The fare is 1.50 euros per person and one euro more if you take a bicycle on board. The ferry is shown below returning from the opposite bank.

Yes, there were many people riding bicycles along the riverfront. Most of them appeared to be tourists. I did see one group of about seven serious cyclists on the riverside street heading out toward the ocean. The two riders at the front setting the pace were women, and behind them the men were struggling to stay in the women’s draft.

There are modern buses running along the river for locals, and for us tourists and old-time streetcar.  It runs several times an hour and costs three euros.

Yesterday as I pedaled my overloaded bike toward the hostel, I rode between the tracks until I heard a “Clang! Clang!” behind me. It was the streetcar, whose driver was telling me to get the hell out of the way.

Today after breakfast, I will proofread this blog entry, missing most of the errors, of course, and then head out on foot again to see what I can find of interest.

by Jack Quinn, Phoenix, Arizona USA paybay1(at)mosmicro.com