Gratitude On the Way: Home to Lisbon to Porto

Olá amigos. All the moving parts of my journey to Portugal and Spain are coming together and here I am leaving Lisbon, first leg of my adventure. Or was the first leg imagination?

I’m able to write this blog thanks to a time adjustment, aka jet lag. Some of you are still living in yesterday while I’m in a different time zone. Or maybe both. By the time you read this, we will be in Porto.

This time will be a combination of Camino walking, volunteering for Habitat for Humanity in a town outside of Porto and as a hospitalera in Astorga.

I’m grateful I began walking many different Camino paths in 2016 and that many life lessons have become a part of the continuing journey. KINDNESS, GRATITUDE, SIMPLICITY stand out. Not that they are new to me, but because I’m more aware than ever how our world turns on these simple yet often lost keys to opening relationships and connections everywhere, sustaining life, all the time, beyond borders and languages. On and off the Camino.

One of the greatest Camino lessons for me has been recognizing that kindness is everywhere and not limited to the Camino where it seems to be, (here it is again) along with simplicity and gratitude, shared most often as life-changing. Each time I’ve returned to the Camino, like many pilgrims, I feel included, visible, more connected. I read an article recently about “The Power of Hello.” We all want to be recognized and this is a way to acknowledge another human being. We can create those connections at home. In a global view, we are all pilgrims walking a Camino.

And here’s the big lesson for me and I bet for the majority of pilgrims: I realize that we need others in our life at home to enable us to walk a Camino. Most of us of a certain age, do not just walk out the door. We have responsibilities and relationships and obligations that require that word I keep trying to avoid: plans.

So this blog is a thank you note to all of you who have been my Camino Angels in helping me get here. It’s the Kindness at home that enables us to make our dreams a reality. Can we make that a reciprocal part of our relationships?

What does it take to actually get on the plane to fly across continents and walk a Camino? Or any journey that requires us to be away from home for extended time, leave behind responsibilities that someone else might assume or at least help arrange or take over for us.

My anxiety gene was helping me understand that I had a complicated itinerary that I call a Camino of moving parts. Everything depends on everything else. Combining my walk with volunteering that requires an extra bag for the first part of the journey. Getting to the SFO airport on a holiday weekend, early in the morning, leaving my car behind. Hooray for two friends who don’t know each other, but were part of the tag team that helped me begin my journey. And plus it was fun, I think, with a two-day party: meals shared, sleepovers, long early morning drives, down the hill to a FLIXBUS stop, meaningful conversations, a beach walk and a drop off at the SFO airport to begin the next step, flying across the world. I’m grateful beyond words. Thank you Marylee and Michelle.

And that gratitude extends to friends and family collecting mail, taking care of our home, caring for plants, keeping keys and itineraries, just in case. Family supportive for my Walking and nonstop talking about it. Helping with plane tickets and arrangements, and in a variety of ways, even finding just the right case to transport my Habitat gear. (I admit I become a bit consumed by all the details, especially because I love the contrasting simplicity of the Camino, when it finally begins, apart from necessary plans and details). And our Sacramento Pilgrim group, awesome sharing and support.

Friends and family, you walk and work by our side from afar. You are all with us. And this is the way of the Camino. We are not alone even when we walk solo.

Three Airports to get here

I arrived early enough to SFO, to walk some training kilometers and check out the beautiful art in the International Terminal. (I didn’t check bags, but this time I had an extra case to carry my Habitat construction clothing that I’ll leave when I’m finished, before my walk). Just finding one that could travel easily with me, on rollers and supposedly fit under the seat was a trip. And I left the poles at home this time. Another blog!

Next was Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, that was experiencing a labor strike that luckily only caused some concern and short delays, but we still arrived close to on time. What a unique airport. Besides being all in one terminal for ease of getting from gate to gate, it is environmentally friendly and the first airport I’ve been in where you can walk outside into sunshine and fresh air.

San Francisco International Terminal


And I wondered why we had to go through passport control in Amsterdam on a connection, but found out at my last stop in Lisbon’s airport, that I had no immigration or passport checks there because both Switzerland and Portugal are part of the Schengen Agreement. Like flying from state to state in USA, where the first state is where you go through the customs procedures.

I whizzed through Lisbon’s airport, and the taxi line, and was dropped off quickly and safely in front of my hostal, a cross between a hostel and hotel, a very simple room with shared baths, Lisbon Poets Privates. This was my first surprise for a reservation I made weeks ago. It’s only rooms with shared baths and a reception desk that’s open 9-5. Or here, 9:00-17:00. No meeting area or kitchen or meals. But… the hostal was in a desirable section, Chiado.

The receptionist at check-in was welcoming and helpful and my room comfortable with a small balcony. The sounds of the city, including nightly concerts serenaded until midnight. Lots of outdoor, spontaneous entertainment like rap and break dancing and DJ music. And street musicians, whose violins bring tears to your eyes. All in a perfect location. It’s all a balance, but the connection with other travelers or pilgrims to me is a key part of my solo journeys, so that will be coming next.

Here’s what made up for the solitary accommodation. Two awesome walking tours with great guides, Luis from Brazil, for the free 3 hour Lisbon gig and a second worth-every-euro trip to Sintra walking to Rossio Station for a 45 minute train ride to the beautiful and very touristy village with Eduardo who grew up in Sintra area and shared stories, myths and history.

I’m impressed by the knowledge, and professionalism of the staff. Groups were about 15 and the guides made sure that we stayed together. Time for pictures, but don’t lag too far behind. Best guided walks I’ve taken, ranking up with Madrid’s OK Hostel city walking tour. I highly recommend these tours to get to know a city and meet people from all over the world. Santiago de Compostela also has wonderful walking tours not to miss. Including a roof top tour that might not be available during the construction but check it out.

I hopped on a trolley car, # 28, that is said to take a route around the hills and popular sites in this beautiful city. The guidebooks suggest the ride, but these trolleys are standing room only and it helps to get on first and know what you’re seeing. They plainly state that they stop at the end of the line. That meant out miles from the start and long lines for bus return. Read the fine print. In the end, hiring a guide or taking a guided tour is money well spent. But still fun to take a shorter trolley ride.

Portugal loves it’s Poets. And with its sculptures, tiles and other art and architecture, poetry is all over, including names of squares and streets. More on tiles and sculptures and stunning art coming in future posts. But here are a few that caught my eye. Lisbon and Porto are feast for the senses.

And one more important bonus:

The best breakfast in the world or at least Chiado in Lisbon. Sweet, delicate Natas. Fresh enough to be so hot it might burn your tongue. But you won’t mind. And it will lightly crunch when you bite into the delicate crust and the creamy custard. Nutritious? Of course. From Manteigaria. Made on site. And equal to Belim, some say. Better get up early. 👣❤️

Lisbon needs more than three days. I hope to return someday.

I’m now in Porto. This coming Sunday I’ll meet up with our Habitat for Humanity team. After our work later in September, it’s time to walk again on the spectacular Coast from Portugal into Spain to start from where I left off last year. Right now I have reserved rooms for days one and two, Caminha and Oia.

And about the train, from Lisbon to Porto, a beautiful ride, first class, expansive view, comfort seat, charging plug, only €22 with “birthday” discount ( if you qualify be sure to ask for it). And smooth enough to write a long, long blog. I love the trains in Europe. So much is connected.

Parting words: we’re walking together, so be ready for Plan B.

¡Obrigada! Bom Caminho, amigos. From The Poets Inn, Porto



4 thoughts on “Gratitude On the Way: Home to Lisbon to Porto

  1. Love this blog and beautiful pictures. I’m anxious to read more of your adventures. Be safe and thanks for sharing. Your house is safe. Chuck W


  2. Safe journey Irene! Loved reading your post. Pete Souza, Obama’s photographer, is in Porto too! Maybe you’ll met him!

    Sent from my iPhone



  3. Loved reading your posts. I always feel like I’m there (I wish). Hope you have a very safe and amazing trip. Can’t waitfor your next post. 🥰


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