Saturday, May 4, 2013 -- Sâo Pedro de Rates to Tamel S. Pedro Fins
Well, none of us slept well last night. The beds where too small and my feet kept touching the end, cars drove up and down the busy street just outside the albergue and several people in the room snored all night long. I was pretty miserable and grouchy all morning although I tried not to let it show. At one point along the way, Tommy and I stopped to listen to church bells ringing from three different churches in the distance—it was like THX surround sound. There was a beautiful sunrise over the eucalyptus woodland which we walked through for about 7km before reaching Pedra Furada where we stopped at the famous café and had ham and cheese sandwiches with freshly squeezed orange juice and coffee. Andreas got a text from Frank telling us that he had gotten lost and needed directions so we all sat around waiting for him. By the time he arrived I was already finished with my food and drink and ready to go so I told everyone I was going to take the alternative route to Monte Franqueria and visit the 18th century chapel, a pilgrimage site in its own right. The road climbs up a steep hill for about 2km which is quite exhausting but one is rewarded at the top with a viewing balcony with great views over Barcelos and the Cávado Valley. Inside the chapel I was able to have my credencial stamped by an elderly lady who was busy sweeping the floor and getting the place ready for a wedding. Going down the hill, I thought I’d be able to visit the Castelo de Faria and the remains of a medieval tower but despite my best efforts I was unable to find signs anywhere. I eventually came to the Convento dos Frades which I guess is also called the Convento da Franqueira and serves as a hotel for pilgrims willing to dish out 50 Euros or more per night. It was here that I met up with my friends again and together we walked through the sweet-smelling eucalyptus forest past the parish church in Carvalhal and past the Capela da Santa Cruz into the industrial area of Barcelos. Before entering the city, we had to cross a medieval bridge over the Cávado River. Just in front of us was the 15th century Solar dos Pinheiros manor house and the remains of the 15th century Palace of the Counts, Paço dos Condes now an open air archaeological museum with the pillory (Pilourinho) portraying the legend of the Galo de Barcelos that rose from the table of the judge who had wrongly condemned a pilgrim to Santiago to hang from the nearby gallows. The pilgrim had proclaimed his innocence and stated that if he were wrongly condemned to hang then a dead cock would rise from the judge’s table in proof of his righteousness. The innocent boy was hanged and sure enough a roasted cock stood up on the judge’s plate as he sat for dinner that night. The bewildered judge hurried from his table to find the pilgrim alive on the gallows—saved by the miraculous intervention of Saint James and the Barcelos cockerel, a colourful symbol for Portuguese identity. Nearby it is the 14th century parish church, Igreja Matriz with its fine display of glazed tiles. On the opposite side of the square is the sumptuously restored town hall and council office Paços do Concelho formerly a hostel for pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela. Just behind it is the Largo do Apoio the original town square around which the nobility built their houses with its central fountain. Barcelos was packed with visitors and locals who had gathered for one of the most important religious festivals around, the Festa das Cruzes (Festival of the Crosses), which is held at the beginning of May. The festival revolves around the Igreja do Senhor Bom Jesus da Cruz and is related to the mysterious appearance of a cross made of black earth on the fairground in December 1504, and where a small chapel was immediately built in recognition of this divine signal. Two centuries later, in 1704, work began on the building of a new church on the same site, designed by João Antunes. Its most notable features are the carved and gilded woodwork of the altars of Senhor Bom Jesus da Cruz and Nossa Senhora das Dores dating back to the 16th century and the 18th-century, and the azulejo panels by João Neto, a prestigious Lisbon tilemaker. The flower carpets which are made in front of the altars each year are a huge attraction to thousands of devotees who visit the temple at the time of the Festa das Cruzes. Other sights within the church include decorated floats with religious icons to be carried during parades. As a group, we all sat outside near the fountain and watched musicians and performers gather for the parade of gigantes y cabezudos (giants and big-heads). I thought we would sit here most of the afternoon and head for the albergue after lunch but I was wrong. No one wanted to eat and no one wanted to stay in Barcelos except me. I wasn’t upset but I did want to hang out a little while longer so when they headed out for Tamel S. Pedro Fins, I told them I would catch up later. I proceeded to the fairground with its food booths, carnival rides, games and market with local products including pottery and thousands of Barcelos roosters. I thought of my friends and bought each of them a small rooster and a set of hors d'oeuvre picks for me. The long haul out of town stretched for a gruelling 10km through city suburbs and then more forests and farms with no water fountains in sight. As usual, I forgot to fill up before leaving and suffered for a long time without anything to drink. In desperation I prayed that there would be a water fountain near the Igreja de Vila Boa and wouldn’t you know it? God heard me and I drank my fill before continuing over railroad tracks near Ribeira. This is the Capela de Santa Cruz in Ribeira built in the 19th century to honor a miracle that happened here in 1843. Reportedly, on a Sunday, June 11, 1843, the parish was having their annual procession of São Sebastião. On their way to the São Sebastião chapel, they came upon a cross formed on the ground. The following Sunday, some parishioners who had knowledge of this were at the scene and surrounded the area with a simple fence, so that the animals could not touch that ground. I’m still a little unclear as to what the miracle was…anyone could have put the cross there… This is the chapel of São Sebastião in Lijó where all of the parishioners were headed on the day of the procession. The albergue in Tamel S. Pedro Fins is located in a renovated building called the Recoleta da Portela which used to be a residence for hermit monks who made their home here in 1720s. It was quite nice but I wasn’t too pleased with having a top bunk on a bed that shook every time I moved. In order to get a good night’s sleep, I took the mattress down and slept on the floor. This was definitely the right thing to do since I ended up getting up several times during the night to pee. My bladder must be the size of bean ! Right beside the albergue is the Capela Sra. da Portela whose interior is decorated with several statues to Our Lady including the Fatima statue and Our Lady of Lourdes. My late arrival meant that I would miss evening Mass which was packed with people—many were standing just outside the main doorway. I did get to go inside after the service and take a few photos. For dinner, we all went to the Restaurant 2000, a nearby café that had a pilgrim menu for 6 Euros. I ordered from an 8 Euro menu and had the seafood spaghetti and vegetable soup. Pilgrim menu or not, each of our meals came out to nearly double what we expected because we ordered ice cream (way overpriced) for dessert and an after dinner drink (even more overpriced)—be warned, this is how they gouge a pilgrim’s wallet. Total distance walked today was about 27 kilometers.