Viva España

It’s probably not really Portugal’s fault.

It’s tried very hard, with some splendid walking, wonderful vistas, Super Bock and some pretty good weather.

But crossing this bridge this morning from Valença into Tui took me back once more into the warm embrace of Spain, the true home of the Camino – and almost immediately, it just felt right again.

A better night’s sleep saw me up early and weaving my way through the fortifications of the Fortaleza in semi-darkness, ready at last to see a sunrise as I prepared to cross the Minho and the unguarded border from Valença into Spain.

As I made my way into Tui, my phone decided to note the transfer into Spain with a temporal fit, changing time zones backwards and forwards three times before finally settling, correctly, on being an hour ahead of Portugal.

Wearing an analogue wristwatch would seem to be a must if you live in this borderline territory.

Spotting an early-opening (perhaps) cafe outside the cathedral, I stopped for a breakfast of huevos fritos and – at last – zumo naranja con hielo.

All the way through Portugal, my repeated requests for orange juice and ice had seen me presented with a Disappointing Bottle of some orange concentrate and a glass with some ice-cubes plonked in it.

No more than a few steps into Spain and already it was being done right – three oranges introduced into a clunking machine that effectively squeezed them down into one packed little glass of orangey bitty goodness.

Oh Happy Day.

Suitably hepped up on Vitamin C, I strode out of Tui alongside Robert and Carmen of Salzburg, who were delighted to hear that I’d been to their city three times, when following Argyle there on pre-season tours had seemed like a good idea.

I think they actually kind of pretended to know who Plymouth Argyle were, to be honest.

My early day walking pace soon left Robert and Carmen in my wake as a glorious Spanish morning unfolded itself in front of me, at first on protected pathways on the main road out of Tui.

That stretch of asphalt was quickly replaced by peaceful woodland paths, with birdsong and frog choruses rising high into the air.

There were some intriguing stories to take in along the way, including this little tribute to San Telmo, a Pilgrim who fell sick and died on this very spot, on his way back from Santiago.

At least he got there, eh?

The woodland paths leading to Porriño also featured a number of Roman bridges, which were a delight.

Even more impressive was this enormous mural, the Portico de Gloria.

Around about now, Left Shoulder decided to put in a first Official Complaint, although I have to admit that I may not have packed my rucksack as evenly as I could this morning, so I apologised and further confirmed that we were only walking 20km today, which was enough to do the trick.

Suddenly, the Camino cheerfulness that had been somewhat absent in Portugal had re-emerged, with many more Peregrinos on the path, smiling and talking and nodding as we fell into our walking rhythms and passed by each other.

Wilma and Jacques (86) from Breda were great company for a good stretch into Porriño, including a drinks break that saw us all get bonus cakes or tortillas with our drinks.

I reached the endpoint of my day a little sooner than I expected and I nearly thought of pushing on a little further.

Then I remembered the lessons of yesterday and the need to take more time to absorb the experience, rather than just rush further on.

Lesson learned.

I almost felt ready to rejoin the albergue set again, after a few days of single rooms, but concerns of an uncontrolled coughing fit, disturbing my fellow pilgrims in the middle of the night, saw me checking in at another Casa rural instead, just to be on the safe side.

Sure enough, at 2am, here came another set of unwanted splutterings.

Maybe tomorrow.

A successful interaction with an automated laundromat and a good chat with Ellis and Manfred from Germany was a highlight of my evening in Porriño, which was otherwise spent in the town square listening to a series of music events in a local festival.

A Good Day.

Albergue Report:

Residencial Portas dos Sol, Valença

Excellent little hotel with splendid views of the ramparts of the Fortaleza.

Health Report:

Tedious Cough: Hmmm, bored now

Blisters: 0 (1) at least that’s gone

Trips, Slips and Falls: 0

Applications of Factor 50: 2 (7)

Filling of Water Bottles: 1 (7)

Wrong turns taken: 0 (0)

Number of times “Buen Camino” was said: About 50 – lots of new people!

Song Of The Day: Back In The High Life Again, Stevie Winwood

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