Farm animals on Portuguese Coastal Route.

Day Four of our Portuguese Coastal Route took us 15 miles, from Amorosa to Carreço. As fate would have it, it was both Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day.

Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day

It seems slightly humorous that the two events fell on the same day. Ash Wednesday signifies the first day of Lent, the 40-day period leading up to Easter. It’s a day in which practicing Catholics receive the sign of the cross (made from ashes) on their forehead in acknowledgment of their mortality. It’s a day during which many begin fasting.

By contrast, secular Valentine’s Day celebrations are all about extravagance and indulgence. Chocolates, candies, champagne, fancy dinners. My aunt and I were both taken by surprise to see that Portugal seemed to embrace Valentine’s Day with great enthusiasm. The shops and restaurants that were open had hearts and flowers displayed with great artistry.

Which begged the question: which tradition to follow?

Given that we were on a pilgrimage, the humble practices of Ash Wednesday made most sense. And yet, any pilgrim will tell you frankly: it takes tremendous energy to walk the distances we were covering. Spartan meals of crackers and water were not going to cut it.

Return to Castelo de Nieva

We took a taxi four miles south *back* to the point we had been forced to stop the night before, near Igreja da Santiago de Castelo de Nieva. The beautiful church is distinctive in that it is the oldest church in Portugal to honor St. Iago, and features a beautiful stained glass window that depicts a pilgrim.

The cemetery adjacent to the church is incredibly beautiful. I was especially struck by two unique features. Firstly, each grave had a translucent bowl filled with water atop it. Secondly, every single grave was ordained with gorgeous fresh flowers.

I’ve never been to a cemetery where every gravesite was so meticulously maintained. I’m uncertain as to whether it was related to Valentine’s Day, or whether it’s always that well cared for. In any case, it was lovely.

Departing the ancient church, we walked through a quiet wooded section fragrant with eucalyptus, before walking on one of the main highways. Happily, it boasts a generous shoulder, and we both felt safe.

Viana do Castelo

Viana do Castelo is a large town replete with ancient churches, and full of shops and restaurants. The coastal town is also renowned for its historical legacy in the codfish industry.

The sight that pilgrims’ eyes are most likely to catch during the walk to Viana is the Sanctuary of Santa Luzia and the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which is situated high up in the hills and is visible for several miles.

If the relatively new church (built between 1904 and 1959) looks incredibly familiar, it is said that the architects were inspired by Paris’s Sacré Coeur de Montmartre.

By the time most pilgrims arrive in Viana, their legs are already fatigued. Hence, my aunt and I had no qualms about taking a 6-minute taxi from the waterfront to the Sanctuary. What makes it so worth the detour?

THE VIEWS!

After savoring the spectacular scenery, we took a long hike through the woods towards Carreço.

Portuguese Coastal Route Camino.

Would You Like an Orange?

Near Areosa, a driver stopped his car and called out to us, asking if we liked fresh oranges. We replied that we love them. With that, he left his car, unlocked a gate leading to an orchard covered with citrus and snow-white lilies. Pulling out a bag, he rapidly moved from tree to tree, depositing dozens of oranges and clementines.

They were 100% natural, he said. Zero pesticides. They were SO GOOD. And I don’t think I’ve ever smelled an orange that aromatic.

To that kind gentleman – THANK YOU!

First Pilgrim Dinner at Historic Albergue

I have nothing but praise for Albergue Casa do Sardão. Although the town is a very small one, its remoteness gives it the feeling of a quiet retreat. The stone structure of the main building itself dates back to 1560. In the backyard, two horses and four sheep roam about freely.

Is it close to a supermarket or restaurants? No. That’s not a problem. Pilgrims can order meat, fish, or vegetarian dishes for €10, and the restaurant will deliver it.

Thus, my aunt and I had our first pilgrim dinner of the trip with a lively group hailing from Russia, Belgium, Latvia, Germany, and Greece. As always, everyone has a fascinating backstory, and I love the easy humor that comes out. Everyone is sore. Everyone has gotten lost. And yet, everyone is having a great time.

Wherever you are in your journey, Buen Camino!

By Katie Cerezo

Thank you so much for visiting. 😊 I have always loved traveling, and my legs are my primary means of transportation. It's a beautiful world, and I'm eager to explore it…one step at a time.

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