Paul Contino | Photographs - Photoletter 30

Paul Contino | Photographs

Photoletter Issue No. 30

I Wouldn’t Mind a Pet Dragon

Foxtrot - a weekly read on Sunday morning. Being well-versed in mathematics and engineering, I can appreciate Jason’s approach to life from a budding scientist’s perspective. He also has quite the active imagination when it comes to his pet iguana (though not as elaborate as classic Calvin with his trustworthy Hobbes).


We’ll start with the exposé on Portugal in this issue. (National Parks will have to wait for another day.)

Mid September brought me to Lisbon to embark on [another] multiweek walk. This time was the Caminho Português, one of the many pilgrimage routes that end in Santiago de Compostela in the northwest Spanish province of Galicia.

Afterwards I spent a couple of days exploring Porto - though the Caminho Portguês passes through this beautiful port city, touring around its streets was not on my “camino” agenda.

From there I headed to Figuera da Foz to spend some time with an old friend (he is officially old, as he just recently retired) to catch up and decompress and fill up on more Portuguese sweets and local cuisine. As well as a day trip to the site of the world’s largest waves in Nazaré.


Caminho Português

Many of you have heard of the Camino de Santiago. It’s a traditionally religious journey through the north of Spain, originating in western France.

There are, however, many variations of this walk. No doubt you are familiar with “all roads lead to Rome”. It may be just as apt to state that “all roads lead to Santiago”, including one that originates in Rome.

During the months of September and October I took the opportunity to explore one of the caminos traditionally walked in Portugal, known as the Caminho Português.

Commencing a bit over 600km to the south of Santiago in the capital of Lisbon, it is a 20-30 day trek by foot. Though shorter than the ~800km “French” route, it is arguably a more difficult journey.

Much of the first half of the walk takes place along busy roadways, pounding pavement on sidewalks and sidestreets, with long days between sleeping stops and hard-to-follow signage along the way.

Once reaching beautiful Porto the amount of pilgrims increases perhaps ten-fold. A day and half north by foot and the hard ground walkways transitions to more forgiving dirt and back road pathways, and a variety of smaller towns and villages.

Eventually you make your way up to the border with Spain, where the final 100km marks the minimum distance those walking are required to continue on to Santiago in order to receive what is known as a “compostela”, a prized verification of one’s pilgrimage.

It becomes very busy at this point; though many will note the majority of the newcomers are Spaniards out for a leisurely stroll in their backyard.

If you’re interested in a quick daily excerpt of my recent journey you can find it here: Caminho Portugues 2023. It is compiled in reverse order, so I recommend you scroll down to the bottom and start there.

Bom caminho!

The Allure of Portugal

Can I see the hands of people that have been to Portugal in the past year or two? Seems like “everyone” has either been or knows someone that has been to this little Iberian country recently. And why is that?

First answer seems to be affordability. It’s easy to enjoy the country and what it has to offer on a frugal budget. An espresso will put you back 80 cents on average. Pair it with a delicious and hearty fresh-baked pastry, and you’re still around $2 for something that would cost $7-10 in the good ole U.S. of A. Doesn’t seem like much until … well three times a week tallies to $6 in Portugal versus $20-30 in the U.S.


Then there’s the lunch specials for an average of $8. Cup of soup and half sandwich in the U.S. sounds great, right? How about water, wine, bread, an actual bowl of soup, a main entree (e.g. entire fish with salad and potatoes, or half chicken and veggies and rice), and coffee, sometimes even dessert.

And, of course, the sights. Churches and cathedrals surviving centuries of weather wear. Rolling country-sides with vineyards and kiwi trees and chestnuts strewn about the ground. Miles and miles and miles of coastline. Ornately designed stone-laid walkways and streets (that to this day are being repaired and even created).

It’s a beautiful place, with warm, welcoming citizens - especially if you make the effort to speak the language and show an appreciation for their country.

For the fortunate foreigner, Portugal is an affordable place to visit, as well as reside for those interested in a comfortable life abroad.

Lisbon: Times Have Changed

The top photograph was taken a bit over a dozen years ago in Lisbon, Portugal. I spent a couple of days in the city just meandering about, taking photographs of its places and its people.

The bottom photograph is from a month ago. Blank slate and tourist-laden. People on the move, paying mind to themselves more than those around them.

The former photograph is one of my personal favorites - for the writing on the wall and the feeling of community between the people, the conversations, the shapes, even the pigeons! And the fact that this is in a plaza dedicated to the remembrance of a brutal moment from Lisbon’s history centuries back.

It is reflective of the vibe before cell-phones and tourists and the influx of foreign investors invaded the capital of Portugal, where few Portuguese continue to reside.

Gifts for Writers

Denik journals with Contino photographs. $15 each including shipping, or two for $25. If you are interested or have any questions feel free to send me an email. Thanks!


Listening to: Holiday songs

Appreciating: Erich Hartmann’s Snowstorm in New York

Making (and eating): Lots of Christmas cookies

Hope you all had a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving with family and friends.


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