It’s said that every Camino is different and the first couple of days on the Portugués route have certainly been that.
The similarities are there – the friendly chatter in the albergue with Meg and Jennifer from England and Maria from Poland, all of us on our second Camino’s, cheerfully recalling highlights from our last endeavour, the plastic sheets and the creaking bunk beds.
Then there was Rustling Plastic Bag Man, who entered the dormitory after the 11pm curfew and rustled a plastic bag for a good while, quite without any concern for his neighbours.
My night’s rest was already under threat from a badly timed cold and I made a rookie mistake in not fishing out my earplugs at first, only to realise that there were Snorers in the dorm and that they would be necessary after all.
The differences started becoming apparent the following morning, the commencement of my walk itself.
Instead of a symbolic passing through the gates of St Jean Pied de Port, I took a metro to Matasinhos and crossed a very bendy transporter bridge.
It was a grey and foggy morning, just as it had been on the first day of the Francés up into the Pyrenees and the cool conditions were welcome as I began to get into a decent walking rhythm again.
The route I’d chosen would take me along the coast at first, from Matasinhos to Vila do Conde, along a stretch of seaside boardwalks.
Very few people were around this early on a Monday morning, apart from a couple of helpful locals who pointed me the right way when I looked uncertain.
Three hours later, the first open cafe appeared out of the mist and an orange juice was enjoyed, along with a nice chat with Issy from Dublin, also on her second Camino.
Later on, I settled on another Restaurant Ruben for lunch and picked a seafood salad as the healthy option, although the high degree of seasoning very nearly closed my throat over.
Portuguese food wasn’t exactly impressing me at this point!
Eventually, my resting place for the night hove into view and the last few steps into Vila do Conde were wearily taken.
The first day was done and the riverside bars of Vila do Conde presented several options for rest, repast and recuperation.
Sadly for me, I went with a local recommendation – the francesinhas, which is essentially a heart attack in a bowl, with slices of bread interwoven with cheese, fried eggs and slices of ham, soaked in a special sauce with more cheese melted on top.
Once eaten (actually only a half of it), never forgotten and never to be repeated.
I immediately went to a local market to buy some fruit to apologise to my stomach.
23km done, it was time for bed.
Back in the old routine.
Albergue Peregrinos dos Portos
29 bunk beds, well spaced out dormitories, great facilities, plastic sheeting. A little bit noisy with passing cars and planes. Daniel and Fides were very welcoming.
Bunged up with a cold and a blocked right ear from the flight that took longer to unblock than wanted.
Left Foot has found out we’re walking again tomorrow and is feeling nervous.
Applications of Factor 50: 1
Filling of Water Bottles: 1
Wrong turns taken: 0
Number of times “Buen Camino” was said: about a dozen
Unlikely Songs Repeatedly Played By My Brain:
What’s the story Morning Glory?
The Long and winding road
Under the Boardwalk
Senses Working Overtime
Sweet Little Mystery (!)