Portuguese Coastal Camino ….destiny! *part 1 of many*

So many times during the pandemic and throughout the time recovering from surgery I would close my eyes and walk parts of the Camino. All I wanted to do was put on my backpack and lose myself in its paths, food and community. Last summer I was so lucky to find my journal from my first camino on the French route and it brought back so many memories for me. Almost 26 years ago. Wow! I will share bits and pieces of it here in the future. I am still very sad that my photo album disappeared somewhere. Very sad.

My journal from my first camino!!!!!!!!!!!!

We have been wanting to do the Portuguese Camino for quite a long time now but had a hard time deciding on whether we should do the Coastal Route or the Central Route. Finally, we made our decision and made the dream real this past July. It was mixed partly with work but mostly it was just us and our camino, the way it should be.

I always tell my groups about the miracles that happen along the Way, sharing with them my many stories to back this up. El Caminho Portuguesa Da Costa did not disappoint. We arrived in Porto on a wing and a prayer thanks to RyanAir and their constant strikes (miracle number 1). Our first stop was the Cathedral to pick up our pilgrim´’s passports. As we walked up to the main entrance I spotted two walking sticks propped against the facade of the Cathedral. Taking a closer look, I saw they each had a small note attached. Written in Portuguese and English each note said, “This pole made the Camino 2x. It belonged to …….. who left it first, in this same place, where it was found by …….. who leave it here now. For you. Enjoy”. There was no doubt in our minds and hearts that we had chosen the correct path.

Check out the bread and spicy oil!

Pilgrims need fuel and there is no better place than Porto to have some great food! I had walked by this restaurant a few times the week before and I knew that Filipe and I needed to eat here! When a restaurant is filled with workers and people from the neighbourhood, like the the older gentleman who is served his meal without even having an order taken, you know you are in the right place. I have grown to have a serious weakness for “frango asado” in Portugal. Nobody does grilled chicken better than Portugal and many African countries. Btw you must read, and if you can, eat here…. https://mooninspain.com/2019/06/12/spice-bcn-must-do/

Obviously I had the grilled chicken, served with rice, fries and black beans (my favourite part). Filipe couldn’t pass on one of the most traditional dishes from Porto, Dobrada. Dobrada or Tripas à Moda do Porto is a stew made with white beans and tripe. It is said that this dish originated in the 14th century. Supposedly the people of Porto gave all of the meat to Henry the Navigator´’s Armada when he left to conquer Ceuta and all that was left in the city was the offal. There is also a Portuguese saying, “Fazer das tripas Coração”, which basically means to bend over backwards for someone or something.

The lunch was perfect, showered with great Portuguese wine. A pitcher of wine here costs 3 euros and 60 cents. If you are in Porto and need a great meal, check out Churrasqueira Moura on Rue do Almada. You won’t ever regret the experience.

Porto on the right and Vila Nova de Gaia on the left.

With tummies full and after a nice walk through Porto, we set off to Viana do Castelo where we would actually begin our Camino the next day.

Happy Pilgrim in front of Porto’s City Hall

Ultreia!

Finding your way through Navarra

My life and my heart have been tightly intertwined with the Camino de Santiago for 25 years. I did my first pilgrimage, the French Way, 25 years ago. Innocent and alone. After that month on the Way I knew that I would never be the same again. 10 years later I did my second pilgrimage, the Northern Way, with quite a bit more knowledge and more money in my pocket. The Camino didn’t fail to change me once again. Since then I have repeated the pilgrimage with many groups of students and adults. Each time has been it’s own precious experience. It has become one of the most sacred pieces of myself.

A “footprint’ near Pamplona

Today, July 25th, we celebrate the Day of St.James, the Apostle Santiago, James the Great. The Patron Saint of Spain. Every person can choose their own interpretation of the history and legends regarding the pilgrimage and Santiago himself. That is what makes it the Camino magical.

Follow me and I will take you to Santiago de Compostela

Pilgrims uplift and encourage each other saying, “Ultreia” translated as further..beyond…come now…come on!! The original saying was “E ultreia, e suseia, deus adjuva nos”. Simply translated as, let’s keep going further with God’s help. You can also just say, “Buen Camino!”

Camino Nascente, Portugal

We passed through a bit of two paths that run through Portugal on the way to Santiago in the past few days. I could feel my heart pulling my back to the Camino, back to Santiago de Compostela. My city of stars. A big part of my heart is always there and has been there especially for the past few months. See you soon Santiago, see you soon old friend!

Always on the Way

Hermano Peregrino……dedicated to Ismael Izquierdo.

Places in my heart……Burgos

elegance and quality on the Camino……..

things you find on the “camino”

Best Beach Tapas!

“Food Tastes Better with Sand Between Your Toes”. Anthony Bourdain

I was raised between Chicago and Arizona so beach was not really a part of my life growing up unless you count shivering with blue lips in Lake Michigan or tubing down the Salt River. So, when I first moved to Granada (25 years ago) and was able to be on the Mediterranean in 45 minutes I found a whole new world. Not like I had not been to a beach before, I had been to many. But, the coast of Granada is a big swimming pool. Most beaches are pebbly or rocky for that matter but in three steps you can no longer stand and are free to swim for as long and as far as your body will take you. I’m pretty sure the only reason I ever got out of the water my first year in Granada was that I realized I could have a cold beer and a free tapa and jump back in. And then repeat. Thank you to whoever opened that first beach bar in Sitges, Catalonia. The Chringuito is a way of life in Spain. The word comes from Cuba, a place where people who worked on the sugar plantations would rest in the shade to have their café.

Fresh, local shrimp on the coast of Granada

I remember thinking to myself how absolutely delicious every tapa tasted to me with my feet buried in the sand, my hair and skin salty from the sea. I couldn’t imagine enjoying food more than at a Chiringuito. Tired from swimming and looking out at the sea. As a student, I could easily survive on the tapas. Fresh shrimp or some fried fish. It was all perfect, and still is.

Mussels with Pipirrana

Every once in a while you might get a tapa of ham or cheese or russian potato salad. But, for the most part the tapas go with the atmosphere. Clams lightly sauteed in a parsley sauce or mussels fresh from the sea. Sometimes they serve the mussels with pipiranna which is a light salad of tomato, onion, cucumber and bell pepper. We also eat a lot of fried fish in Southern Spain. It was never common for people to have ovens in their homes so frying was an easy and quick way to prepare certain proteins and vegetables. Some might even say it is healthy! In Granada, fried fish is commonly served with a raw cabbage salad marinated with olive oil, vinegar and garlic. Anchovies are one of the best fried fish you can find!

Fried anchovies with cabbage salad

The Phoenicians founded the city of Cádíz in 1104 BC and established small towns such as Almuñecar along the Mediterranean coast of Spain. They elaborated Mojama, a salt dried tuna. Although the name comes from Arabic, the process began under the Phoenicians. Mojama is still prepared and consumed all along the Atlantic Coast of Spain as well as along the Mediterranean Coast. This tecnique is also used in Portugal, Morocco and Italy. Mojama is served like a slice of ham; alone, on a piece of toast, in a salad or to flavor other dishes.

A simple tapa of Mojama, salt cured tuna.

The coast of Granada is full of surprises and history. These are just the “tapas” which will open your palate for the rest of a wonderful meal on the coast. Buen Provecho!!

Celebrating Portugal…..

June 10th is the Day of Portugal, Camões and the Portuguese Communities. Luís Vaz de Camões, author of the epic poem Os Lusíadas and considered the greatest poet of Portuguese and the Portuguese language, died on June 10th, 1580. The use of this day, June 10th, has had a long and weathered history since it was first chosen in 1640 after Portugal’s independence from Spain. It is celebrated in Portuguese Communities around the world. In 2018, the Portuguese President and the Prime Minister were received in Providence, Rhode Island by the Governor and the large Portuguese community in this area. The celebrations included music, dance, Portuguese wine and a lot of bacalhau along with many other traditional foods.

A homemade Bifana

The other day I was reminded again that we still can’t cross the borders and thought we could use a bit more Portugal in our home. What better way to celebrate Portugal than a BIFANA? The bifana is one of those foods that we run to as soon as we arrive in Portugal. We have our favorite places in Lisbon but we really like to stop in the town of Vendas Novas in the Alentejo region if we are driving through Portugal. Everybody stops in this town for a bifana, petiscos and a bowl of soup. The last time we passed through here at 10 in the morning the places were packed with locals and travelers alike getting their bifana fix on. Next time we make that stop (please be soon), I will film a video of the scene.My bifanas were made by slowly cooking the thinly sliced pork loin in white wine with a lot of garlic, smashed piquillo peppers, dried Ñora peppers, bay leaves, spicy paprika, lemon juice and a some butter even though it calls for lard. Salt and Pepper of course. There are different recipes but we like this one best. And, they are amazing. I rarely use my twitter account but I randomly posted a photo of this and it received a ton of likes and comments by people who know their bifanas. The only thing missing was that incomparable Portuguese roll.