Come Walk with Us

By Gary Schoepfel

[Editor’s note: Only a few spaces remain on our June 2017 trip The Road Less Travelled: Caminho Português. Renew your mind, body, and spirit on our journey that combines walking a centuries-old pilgrimage route with the pleasures of being in nature and sharing conversation among friends old and new over food and wine.]

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s observation that few of us know how to take a walk is perhaps true.

 Thankfully, he cobbled together qualifications for simple yet brilliant walking: endurance, plain clothes, old shoes, an eye for Nature, good humor, vast curiosity, good speech, good silence and nothing too much.

 A camino is a brilliant walk. It reacquaints us with the out-of-doors. It refreshes the mind. It lightens the heart. It gives the soul a bit of elbow room.

Come walk with us.

Of the many camino routes to Santiago de Compostela, the Caminho Português is among the most beautiful and least travelled. Our pilgrimage begins in Porto, on the banks of the Rio Douro, “River of Gold.” The historical core of this age-old city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

Porto along the river Duoro

Porto along the river Duoro

 

Simplicity lies at the heart of the Camino experience. At times you’ll quietly walk alone. At times you’ll walk and chat with one or two of your fellow pilgrims. At times your path will cross with interesting folks from another corner of the world, people simply and meaningfully walking to Santiago.

We will wander through a mix of coastal, forest and open countryside trails, passing terraced vineyards and sleepy villages along the way.

 

Picturesque scenery along the Caminho

 

Jason, our guide par excellence

Jason, our guide par excellence

Weather permitting, midday gourmet picnics will interrupt our walking. Our “maker of picnics”  and guide par excellence, Jason Preater, is a painter, poet, translator, art and architectural historian. Having walked the Camino Francés and a bit of the Camino Primitivo with Jason, I can promise you’ll walk under the guidance (and good humor) of one of the very best.

Come walk with us.

At the end of each 5- to 6-hour walking day, your dogs (read feet) may be howling a bit, so the anticipation of a hot shower, perhaps a short nap, and life support in the guise of good wine and cheese will keep your spirits up for the short drive to either a historic manor house or 3- or 4-star hotel. Once revitalized, we will gather to talk about the idea of pilgrimage, using a selection of short readings.

In case you have doubts about the physical demands of this camino walk, rest assured that our van support will always be available. Day by day, you can walk as much or as little as you like.

Gary invites you to join him at that most sacred of secular places – the table

Gary invites you to join him at that most sacred of secular places – the table

Walking the Camino as a pilgrim, one is likely to think of the end of the journey, the Cathedral Santiago de Compostela, as the sacred place. For me, the nightly dinner table is an equally sacred place on the walk. The evening gathering of fine folks around a well-set table where the exceptional food and drink is complemented by interesting stories, clever jokes, true confessions, an occasional embellishment, and good fellowship is a time I hold dear. These evening occasions renew one’s sense of the goodness of people.

Come walk with us.

After approximately 100 kilometers (65 miles) of walking we will arrive in Santiago on June 23, just in time for the traditional midsummer celebration in honor of San Juan, St. John the Baptist. The roots of this event are deeply embedded in the soil of Neolithic pagan ritual. The protective character of fire, the miraculous effects of water, and the restorative power of medicinal plants are the three ideas that are affirmed and celebrated.

Oh yes, and then there is that other UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela. This immense Romanesque structure and the city itself make a dramatic juxtaposition to the simplicity of our walk.

 

Facade of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

Facade of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

 

Last stop, Finisterre, the end of the earth! How many kilometers! How many sights and sounds and tastes and smells and textures! How many “buen caminos”!

I invite you to come walk with us. Bring comfortable shoes, an open mind, a good appetite, and a sense of humor, and I’m certain we’ll have a wonder-filled adventure.

– Gary

 

Image credits: Porto riverfront, Rui Daniel Ferreira on Wikimedia Commons; Facade of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, Pablo Pérez on Wikimedia Commons

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