Don’t follow the Camino…

– in a low slung coupe when the track turns crap because you will do some serious damage to the underside and it may not be covered by insurance.

More on that later…

What is it about the Portuguese people that makes them so friendly, so gracious, so welcoming.

Jennifer and I were frazzled when we arrived at Villa ‘d Arcos – a beautiful little family run hotel on the outskirts of the small township of Arcos.

Villa d Arcos

The hotel is right smack bang on the Camino – pilgrims walk right past the front door – although they are very scant on this part of the Portuguese Way this time of the year, it seems. Today, we did not see one pilgrim between Vila do Conde and Barcelos.

The hotel has only five rooms, and because we were the only guests last night, we were upgraded to a suite. I’ll write more about our time there on the Road Food blog – ( – but I’ll just say here that last night has to rate as one of the best nights I’ve ever spent on the road, period.

After a breakfast of fresh fruit salad, freshly squeezed orange juice, cold hams and cheeses, and some much needed coffee, Jennifer and I headed off to Vila do Conde.

Yesterday at Porto airport the Hertz guy kindly upgraded me to a Renault 208CC coupe.  Seems like right at the moment I’m carrying an energetic bubble over my head saying UPGRADE ME, UPGRADE ME.

car ext

I’m not fussed about coupes. I think they’re stupid. I can’t see the need for them. In the pouring rain yesterday the Hertz guy showed me in painstaking detail how to take the top down on this car.

“In case the sun comes out,” he said optimistically. “And you want wind in your hair.”

I told him I didn’t want wind in my hair. It didn’t suit me. If I get wind in my hair it might blow all my hair off my head. I said I didn’t want to return the car in a week, wearing a rug.

Undaunted, and with the rain soaking us both, he explained that if I wanted to take the top down, then I couldn’t have any luggage in the trunk.

Given that we’re traveling with luggage, and there’s no room in the backseat in this stupid car to store luggage, (or at least only enough room for someone who has recently been to Afghanistan and trodden on a landmine,) I again told him that I didn’t think I would be taking the top down.

(I should state here that Jennifer has told me quite emphatically that if I keep this reference to a legless war veteran from Afghanistan, then she is having nothing further to do with this blog.)

Anyway, I didn’t like this coupe. To sit behind the wheel you had to drop down into it. I don’t believe you should have to either drop down into a car or climb up into a car. Both are undignified. You should just get into a car.

This is why I hate 4WDs. You have to climb up into them. There are other reasons why I hate 4WDs too – one being that if you back out of your driveway and you accidently run over your child, then the poor little bugger is only good for stock. Or pet food. But if you’re driving a smaller car, then you’ve probably only just dented the little tyke.

Back to Portugal…

Our plan on this trip is to follow the Camino from Porto up to Santiago, and to find suitable hotels for the tour, good restaurants, and see what sections of the route might prove problematic for our pilgrims.

The first night’s stay on the tour will be in Vila do Conde, a beautiful town on the coast – so that’s where we went.

As it turned out the weekly markets were in full swing, so we wandered through, looking at the various stalls selling clothing, cooking utensils, fruit and vegetables, pastries and bread, and all manner of nick-naks.

Cod stall

There was a stall selling dried cod – the fish having come from Norway. And I marveled at the fruit and vegetables. They looked real. They looked like they’d been grown in a garden, not genetically modified in a laboratory and buffed up to look good in a supermarket display.


We then had coffee and a pastry made of hazelnut meringue, with orange jam inside. Along with the two coffees – a latte and a cappuccino – the bill came to €2.70. I’d forgotten how cheap Portugal is.

Coffee & pastry

We then went to the Information Office, found out which was the best hotel in town, walked there and checked out the rooms, and made a note that this is where we would all stay the first night out from Porto.

We then made our way down to the water. The town sits on an inlet, and high on a hill is a magnificent monastery. At the base of the hill are a line of shops and restaurants, and it was outside one of these that I saw a man huddled over a smoking barbeque.

Ribs exterior

Ribs CU

We walked up and I saw that he was barbequing pork ribs. So we walked in and ordered lunch. Again, I’ll detail this in the Road Food blog, but the ribs were part of the set lunch menu. And needless to say, they were delicious.

Ribs cooked

I talked to the manager of the restaurant, and made arrangements for us to have dinner there when we return on the tour on April 6th.

Then we headed off to Barcelos, which is to be our 2nd night stop-over.

Jennifer and I stayed in Barcelos in May of this year, and we discovered an amazing Portuguese Grilled Chicken restaurant. Just like Bresse in France, Barcelos is famous for its chickens. Which means this restaurant has to have the best Portuguese Grilled Chicken in the world.

We’re eating there in a few hours.

However, let me take you back to the lengthy title of this post.

I wanted to follow all the yellow arrows to see what the route was like – yet I’d forgotten that I was in a car this time, and not on foot. So when the yellow arrows directed me off the tar and onto a muddy and rock strewn track, I was determined to keep following.

yellow arrow on stone wall

Did I say how much I love 4WDs for their high clearance?

This stupid coupe was so low to the ground it would bump its belly on a snail if you drove over it.

Against Jennifer’s protestations, which quickly transitioned into panicked shrieks and then involuntary gasping, I gunned this car along this impassable track.

Earlier this year, nothing stopped me walking the Camino Frances, and today nothing was going to stop me driving the Camino Portuguese.  It was only when I hit a rock and heard a horrible metallic crunching from underneath that I finally did stop.

Oh yes, and it was hard driving with Jennifer pummeling me with her fists.

I’d just got through a section that would have stopped some drivers on the Dakar rally. But up ahead the track dropped steeply. It was muddy and rocky. There was no way this stupid girly car could make that drop.

(By the way, Jennifer has said that if I use the word “girly” in this context, she will have nothing further to do with this blog.)

So I did a U turn – which meant renegotiating the Dakar Rally section again. I handed Jennifer her Kindle and asked her to look up Barcelos Hotels in the Lonely Planet Guide to Portugal.

So she was otherwise occupied when I gunned this stupid girl car back over that part of the track, this time neatly missing that miscreant rock which most probably had cracked the diff.

We got through it, and arrived in Barcelos, the car covered in mud.

Here’s the thing – if I return the car to Hertz covered in mud, then they’ll put it on a hoist and do a full check of the vehicle, including the underside. They’re bastards like that.

But if I get the car washed and return it sparkling clean, then it’ll probably be three or four rentals before the engine seizes. And they’ll never trace it back to me.

Unless one of you tells them!

Just remember, I have PGS. I will know which of you has dobbed me in…


22 thoughts on “Don’t follow the Camino…

  1. Bill, you are hilarious and I can just see Jennifer pommeling you. I am so very happy, you are having the time of your life it seems. What a wonderful, uplifting post. I guess you love your life too!. ;=)


    • Hi Ingrid –
      What a creative way to leave a comment! I love that song but I’d never read the words, so thank you for the enjoyment of this musical treat. It’s so appropriate for Bill’s post today.
      ‘Hope all’s well with you –
      Jenny x


    • Dear Ingrid –

      it’s not the pummelling that’s the issue with Jennifer, it’s her shrieking.

      When I’m driving I tend to lose focus.

      I think I will have to drive with earplugs – like I use for snorers in albergues




    • YO, Ingrid, I’m so very impressed. You go, you techno-head girl!! What a wonderful comment to a wonderfully funny post!!
      I’ve been on a Sculpture in the Vineyards tour to the Wollombi region north of Sydney today and thought I had a pretty spectacular day, but nothing to what’s going on in Portugal … and I certainly won’t talk comparisons of the food, although the wines might get a look-in! 🙂


  2. Bill,

    One request now that you have entrapped me. Check and see if the hotels we stay in have heat and actually turn it on. I was surprised how many private rooms we had that did not provide heat.

    Do you speak any Portugese?

    Remind me never to loan you my vehicle, but wait, I do have a 4WD. 🙂 But I am not sure even that could survive you. 😦

    Have fun, Steve


  3. Wow Bill! You and Jennifer must be having a blast of a time! Fantastic!
    Could you please tell us all what brand of “Vitamin L (Larrikin) tablets you’re on? Those tablets sure make for a fun day! BTW – that track was gnarly!
    Thanks for a great belly laugh!
    Cheers – Jenny


  4. Bill, You are a hoot! Thanks for today’s entertainment. It sounds like you and Jen are having a fabulous time. I can just visualize the entire day. I can even imagine the looks on Jen’s face. Journey on, and have a blast! Hugs to you both! Julie


  5. Travel? Check. Food? Check. Wash a rental car before returning it so the rental agency will be dazzled by its appearance and overlook some “problems”? Check. Lutefisk??? Extra points for that one!


  6. Bill,
    Absolutely fabulous post. I was laughing through the entire read.

    I can envision the car on the muddy track, I can see Jen pummeling you, I can hear the car hit the rock. You have such a way of entertaining us all.

    I can’t wait for the Spring, this is going to be the tour of a lifetime. I’ll bet we will be bent over with laughter for a good part of the time.

    Enjoy, I know I am enjoying following your steps through words.



    • Arlene,

      You are blessed with a fine sense of humour!

      This part of Northern Portugal is truly beautiful – but I have to say I have seen no pilgrims at all. Maybe tomorrow when we get to Valenca and Tui, on the border of Spain.

      In May when we were in this region there were pilgrims everywhere – but they are distinctly absent this time of the year.

      Yes, the tour is going to be a hoot. Although I worry about my capability as a tour guide! But I’m sure we’ll all have a lot of fun.



  7. I really enjoyed this account. A word of advice, though – get the car washed NOW. If you take it back TOO clean, that might arouse suspicion. (Believe me, I can think these things through, too!)


  8. Bill, I have read many books and articles about preparing for a Camino, but, until today, none included gunning a car down a rough track, or scaring the living daylights out of another pilgrim. Poor Jennifer.
    What a great time you are having. Maybe you need to register in some local car rallies back here in Oz.
    Loved this post. Just wish I was going to be with you all in April.
    Anne 😄


    • Anne,

      Yes Jennifer and I are having a great time.

      She didn’t approve of that post. She thought a couple of the references were in bad taste.

      In particular the reference to the amount of room in the backseat only appropriate to some who had trodden on a land mine.

      I told her that she’s knew I had an “edge.” She said she’s been hoping for the past thirty odd years that that edge would blunt a little bit..

      Now in Ponte de Lima. My goodness what a beautiful town! Some shots in tomorrow’s post. Found a nice little family restaurant and waiting for rice with roasted pork cooked in pig blood.

      Who would want to be a vegetarian!



      • Smacking my lips , should be tasty and crackling skin..dont forget to finish it off wih a digestive orujo, portuguese style 😉


    • Hi Anne – I totally agree with you – this has been such a fun post.
      I spoke with Sandra at the Pilgrims in Sydney meeting on Wednesday night and she advised me that the January dinner meeting WILL be held on 1 January. There’ll be a post about it on the Pilgrims in Sydney website nearer to the date. I’ll definitely be there. I know the date is not ideal for you but if there was any way you could get there, that would be fabulous. If you’d like to get in touch by email my email is .
      ‘Hope all’s well with you – all great here.
      Jenny xo


  9. Loved this post Bill.
    Your humor gave me a good chuckle for the day.
    On tgat note: Please give my sincere sympathy to Jennifer!


    • Ah David –

      thank you mate.

      Jennifer unfortunately can not be with us tonight, however I gratefully accept your sympathies on her behalf.



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