Wings I’ve Grown

Portuguese Coastal Camino
Stage 5: Castelo do Neiva to Viana do Castelo
(In lieu of Friday’s regular photo and poem feature.)

Viana do Castelo across the River Lima and Eiffel Bridge, with Santa Luzia Basilica on the hilltop

“…But don’t be satisfied with stories, how things
have gone with others.
Unfold your own myth, without complicated explanation,
so everyone will understand the passage,
“We have opened you.”
Start walking toward Shams. Your legs will get heavy
and tired. Then comes a moment
of feeling the wings you’ve grown,
lifting.”

Rumi, “Who?” in The Essential Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks

Prior to departure, I had indicated that while I’d not be posting stories nor photos on social media, nor blogging, I would select and schedule posting my weekly Friday photo and poem features during my walk. That I’d be curious once home and looking back at my choices to see what, if any, correspondence they had to my actual experience. Rumi’s “Who?”– excerpt above – coincided with the day before our shorter fifth stage, walked again in heat though now with humidity thanks to early morning rain. Coupled with a particularly intense climb on tarmac, giving us the first view of our next destination, Viana do Castelo, “heavy and tired legs” were a reality. But first, breakfast at Quinta do Montevedra…


Waking to steady showers and seeing heavy clouds rolling down the hills to the sea, we opted for a leisurely breakfast in another of the Quinta’s beautifully appointed spaces, hoping an hour or two would bring sunshine. Delicious hot coffee, freshly squeezed orange juice and other fruits, creamy scrambled eggs, an assortment of fine sausages – chorizo and Iberian ham – and cheeses – soft brie, aged sheep and fresh creamed – crusty bread, crispy croissants, flaky pain au chocolate, and soft Portuguese pastries. Yes, to linger enveloped in such sumptuousness…listening to music that evoked the memory of a recently passed friend who would have loved this walk, in this way…“we have opened you.”

The sun eventually broke through. Cozy warm and waterproof layers dispensed. The cab called to take us the few kilometers to the stage’s beginning. “Obrigadas” and gratitude gifts exchanged with our host, Fatima. And we set off. Through the forest, with the ocean in the distance to our left, on paths of glittering stone and mud; cobbled roads through villages and vineyards, to the 11th C Sao Romao de Neiva monastery where not a moment’s pause was given to consider climbing this 186 step stairway to heaven!

Once across another Eiffel Bridge – the first we had cruised under on Porto’s Douro River the week before – we passed the city’s cathedral en route to the what, in hindsight, would be an adequate, but least favourite hotel.

Since medieval times, Viana do Castelo has been a pilgrimage stop en route to Santiago. Rich with history, architecture, and culture, we took a “rest day” to more fully appreciate its credentials. The next morning, Sunday, after waking to the news of the race-related mass shooting in my birthplace, Buffalo NY, rain threatened to fall from heavy clouds as we rode the funicular up the hillside to the famous landmark towering over the city, Santa Luzia Basilica. Foreboding weather and gloomy vistas were an apt reflection of grief.

The city’s annual floral festival where gerbera blossoms festooned the riverside plaza, echoed the colors and designs in the embroidery and weaving of the region’s traditional clothing seen in the local museum.

Finding color on a dreary day was surprisingly easy wandering through the historic centre, past the floral embellished 16th C Praca da Republica Fountain to a children’s art gallery, and then onto a side street festive with suspended umbrellas which held the day’s delight. Waiting in line, a fellow “peregrino” from Colorado invited us to share a table with him and his sister and brother-in-law at a restaurant favoured by locals for their traditional Sunday lunch. Served family style, platters of grilled bachalau with braised carrots, cabbage and potatoes, and again, the beverage of choice – tinto verde. Being the only one game to accept the owner’s invitation to sample an after dinner brandy, he placed the snifter and bottle – Aguardente Velha – beside me while the others wished they’d said yes! Remedied, he brought them small glasses and another Portuguese liqueur – all his way of saying “obrigado” to us for eating at his restaurant. Flan to follow, sated, warmed, and smiling…I wrote later in my journal: “a true Camino experience of sharing a meal with others. I hope it is the first of more to come, being in community, on The Way.”

Bordering the journal pages of this day’s entry I wrote a quote, which like the scheduled poem, had been chosen many days before, and yet too, was on point: “There are times in your life you are flung into an undiscovered country of being, a place beyond time and tide and details, the full magical breath of you heaving with the joy of being, and you realize then, that parts of you exist in exile and completeness is journeying to bring them home.”

Such synchronicities become that “moment of feeling the wings I’ve grown lifting,” bringing me home.

Much love and kindest regards, dear friends.

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