Camino de Santiago: Portuguese Coastal Way

I will start off with a small disclaimer: I didn’t finish. My blisters became too much and on top of that, I fell ill with a whooping cough and was unable to continue. I pushed my body too hard in such a short amount of time and I wish I had done things a little differently (read about how I prepared here), but I had a great time seeing what I could on my 80-mile pilgrimage up the coast of Portugal and Spain. I will write a more in-depth reflection piece in the days to come, but until then, enjoy the bones of my journey!

Saturday, 16 September: My flight to Porto left at 5AM, so needless to say, I had to be up really early (about 2AM) to get the coach to the airport. By the time I got to my hostel and looked up things to do, I found a walking tour that was leaving promptly, so I ran to make it. The walking tour gave us a taste of the city’s interesting history. My personal favorite parts were the Santa Clara church, cathedral (which is actually the original starting point of the Camino, so I started my Camino passport with a stamp from that cathedral) (for those who don’t know, you get a certificate of completion for you get stamps twice a day from hostels, churches, tourist offices, etc. along the last 100 kilometers of your walk) and the riverside. With the early start I had, I took a nap, ate dinner, blogged (the hostel had some desktops computers from which I wrote this bit of the post), read and got an early night.

Sunday, 17 September: I took a train from Porto to Vila do Conde to save myself an extra 16 miles (25.6 kilometers). The first part of the day took me along the beach, then through small rural villages inland leading me to the seaside village of Esposende, where I stopped for the day. The hostel I found was full, but thy let me sleep on the sleeper sofa in reception area for a discounted price, which was surprisingly comfortable. Then again, after the walk I had, I could have slept comfortably on a slab of stone.

  • Walked: 18.2 miles (23.3 kilometers)
  • Highlight: A few miles along the coast, I found a bar where I got my first stamp and encountered my first distinct signposting, what a relief!
  • Lowlight: The language barrier. I don’t understand a lick of Portuguese which is really difficult in villages where English is hard to come by.

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Washington, D.C.

After my dad and I visited New York, we went on to Washington, D.C.

Saturday, 2 September: We took a bus from New York and arrived in Washington at about 1PM. After setting our stuff down at our really nice AirBNB and eating at a nearby vegan restaurant, we visited the National Portrait Gallery. My favorite part was seeing modern figures in art other than photographs!

Sunday, 3 September: We started our day by talking the Mall, seeing the Capitol, Supreme Court, Washington Monument and White House. Then, we went to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, where my favorite exhibit was the Nature’s Best Photography and evolution exhibit!

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New York, New York

As a graduation gift, my parents gave unto me: a trip! My dad and I wanted to go somewhere in Central America, but with my passport M.I.A. while I got my visa, we had to settle for something in the United States (first world problems, I know). With that, I decided I would love to return to New York after my awesome trip there before my study abroad program in 2015 and visit Washington, D.C. for the first time, as well. My dad has taken both my brothers there as a high school graduation gift, so now I’ll finally get to see it for myself! But that comes later…

Tuesday, 29 August: After a long day of travel, we landed at 5PM local time. After the hour drive to our AirBNB apartment not ten miles away, we were in no mood to brave the rain and do something proper.

Wednesday, 30 August: Our first proper day started off bright and early at the High Line, a park built on old train tracks that extends twenty blocks south on Manhattan’s west side. We walked the entire length, which was about a mile and a half. Then, we did a quick walk through of Times Square. After that, we walked the Brooklyn Bridge from the Manhattan side to the Brooklyn side. After freshening up, we went to see Kinky Boots near Times Square. It’s my favorite musical (I saw it when it came to my old job a few years ago as well as twice in London) and the cast was spectacular! Finally, we walked around Times Square once again to experience it at night. It was definitely a lot more crowded and all the screens lit it up like it was daytime.

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Italy

Friday, 21 March: I arrived at my hostel in Venice in the early afternoon. For those who don’t know, the only way around Venice is either by foot or water bus; there are absolutely no place for vehicles bar the bus and car park immediately after the bridge. My hostel was on a island called Giudecca separate from the main cluster islands, so that left my options limited to the water bus. Although it’s slow and a bit pricey, riding the water bus is defiantly a neat experience. Once I got back to the main islands, I visited some main tourist locations like Piazza San Marco, bits of the Grand Canal and the Rialto Bridge, although it was disguised by scaffolding.

Saturday, 22 March: I took a walking tour in the morning. It was an interesting tour in that we didn’t hit the main attractions, but rather less known places with some history such as the smallest street, oldest bridge and several churches. After that, I took one final walk around the Grand Canal before heading out. That evening, I rented a car (thank goodness I know how to drive a manual transmission) and dove about forty minutes northwest to a venue in the middle of nowhere (hence the car rental) to see Enter Shikari. I saw them about a month ago in London with a crowd of about 10,000 people, but this venue had no more than 500 people. During the opening band, Modestep, the guitarist for Enter Shikari, Rory, was standing right behind me! A little later, the singer, Rou, and drummer, Rob, were hanging out at the merchandise booth. I got a few pictures and the two of them signed my ticket. Their set was amazing. Although it was the same songs they played last month, it was a totally different experience in a small venue. At one point, Rou brought an amplifier in the crowd and stood on it for a song while the crowd made a circle pit around him and during the last song, Rory came into the crowd and played and the crowd promptly lifted him up. Not to mention, they both were climbing on things throughout the set. After the set, I waited by the merchandise table, hoping to get the other two members to sign my ticket. The crowd was dying down and I assumed they went to bed, which I understand, it was a late show (it ended at about 12:30AM). On social media, Enter Shikari was running a contest: for everyday of the tour, they autographed a group photo (Polaroid) taken in front of the venue they were playing that night. Although I didn’t win, the winner didn’t show, so the merchandise manager gave me the Polaroid before I left. It was an amazing night, I’m thankful I got several signed items and got a chance to talk to Rou and Rob. After returning my car in the wee hours of the morning and waiting for the hourly night water bus, I was finally back at my hostel, at least for a few hours before I had to catch my train that morning.

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Budapest, Hungary

Thursday, 11 February: On the train from the airport, I met two Americans who are also studying in England. We also happen to be staying at the same hostel, so that night, we went out to eat together at an affordable and critically acclaimed restaurant where I had beef goulash. After that, I turned in early to save energy for my busy day that was to come in the morning.

Friday, 12 February: I started my day with a walking tour of the city, where I saw several beautiful squares, St. Stephen’s Basilica, Chain Bridge and visited the castle district, which included a walk up Castle Hill to get stunning views of the city and hills, Matthias Church and Fisherman’s Bastion.  Then, I visited Heroes’ Square and walked to the Széchenyi Thermal Bath, where I took a dip. It was an impressive structure with multiple pools both indoors and outdoors, but I think I preferred the outdoor baths as the cold weather made the water feel even nicer. After that, I met up with my Dublin-based friend Rachel and her boyfriend, Craig. I met them both when I visited Dublin in September and by some awesome twist of fate, we happened to be in Budapest at the same time. We went up to the top of the St. Stephen’s Basilica for an incredible panoramic view of the city. We then visited the Jewish quarter and went to a ruin bar, which can best be described as a ruined building transformed into a bar with mismatched accessories. It made for a really fun and interesting atmosphere.

Saturday, 13 February: Before I left for the airport for my afternoon flight, I took a rainy morning walk along the Danube to the Parliament building to see one last sight. Despite the weather, it was a nice, peaceful morning and good way to end my trip.

I loved Budapest and wish I had a bit more time here, but I’m glad I pushed through I did a lot for the short time I got in this wonderful city.

If you would like to see pictures of my journey, check out my album on Facebook here.

Germany

Over the last ten days, I’ve been traveling throughout Germany, part of which was with my grandfather (mom’s dad) who was stationed near Wurzburg for eighteen months.

Thursday, 21 January: After my grandpa’s long flight from Los Angeles earlier that day, neither of us were in any mood to go out the evening of my arrival. However, the next day, we took a drive to the south of Munich, where our first stop was a little town called Garmisch-Partenkirchen. After that, we went on to the Zugspitze, the tallest mountain in Germany, where we took a tram to the summit. It was cold (about -15°C/ 5°F) and windy, but the views were breathtaking. Our final stop of the day on the way back was Oberammergau, a small tourist town in the shadow of a grand mountain. That night, we had our best meal of the week, at least in my opinion. We went to a large (I mean, really large, with several different floors and rooms, this place never seemed to end, but even with its vast size it was crowded) Bavarian restaurant where we enjoyed smorgasbord of sausages with sauerkraut and potatoes.

Friday, 22 January: The next day, we took another drive to the south to explore a few castles. First was the Hohenschwangau Castle, a smaller castle  with intricate bedroom designs. Then, we visited the nearby Neuschwanstein Castle. This castle supposedly inspired the Disney castle and righteously so, it has a gorgeous exterior and a grand interior. I enjoyed visiting both castles (as the Hohenschwangau Castle gave us some background on the history of the family who lived there, particularly the son that went on to build the Neuschwanstein Castle), but the Neuschwanstein was my favorite of the two castles.

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