It was as if I stepped out of my life and onto a gameshow where I won the grand prize showcase, that being a trip to Europe minus the camping equipment and matching bedroom set. I was in Portugal on the El Camino Santiago pilgrimage, a gift from my sister.

But we weren’t staying in crowded hostels along the way, hoping that there would be a spare cot, but at nicer establishments, including one night at the house of a Count.

Yes, a Count.

I don’t even know what a count is. But this count of Portugal is better known as the Count of Calheiros. The Count had on a blue blazer, an ascot, his silver hair slicked back, reminding me of that guy on Fantasy Island, Mr. Roarke. But then I noticed the Count had on red socks sticking out over his loafers (a probably sign that there wasn’t a Countess).

The Count explained to us the meaning of his family crest, which contained five stars and five shells. He then gave us a tour of his home, from the gardens to the breakfast table room which was a bit nicer than Waffle House. And no, they did not serve Count Chocula.

The wifi sucked but who cared? We were at the house of a Count’s! The views were insanely gorgeous, looking over the countryside of Portugal. The Count also had a Count dog, Count geese, Count chickens, Count kittens, and Count vineyard.

I am not sure if you capitalize Count or not, or if I was supposed to curtsey upon meeting him. I just shook his dog’s paw instead.

So, what is the El Camino Santiago anyway?

Otherwise known as the way of St. James, the Santiago is a holy pilgrimage completed by thousands of folks during history. The goal is to visit the in Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, where the actual bones of St. Jame are buried, according to the nineth century hermit and DNA specialist, Pelayo.

How the El Camino works: If you don’t have a generous sister to treat you for this adventure, you can follow the arrows throughout the countryside of Portugal, Spain or France.

If you get lost, you can ask a fellow pilgrim for directions. If you’re counting steps, I’m doing a measly 28,000 a day. Others are trekking twice as many.

As you meander along the way, you can get your special your Camino Passport stamped. The passport is to prove that you didn’t use Uber on the trip. Once you get to the Cathedral at the end, you exchange your worn-out hiking boots for a certificate to show you completed the journey.

The El Camino Santiago is a great time to reflect and count one’s blessings, whether you meet a Count or not.

If you want to visit the count, Francisco that Ginger sent you. You can click to the website here: Paço de Calheiros Manor House (

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