After a month of to-ing and fro-ing with the podiatrist, I wasn’t sure this Camino was going to happen. However, after getting the go-ahead from the podiatrist the week prior, my mind was put at ease. I still had over 300 km to walk.
The morning of the flight was an early one. I woke at 5 am, had a quick breakfast and was driven to Dublin airport. I didn’t need to check my bags in as I wanted them on the flight. All that was to be done was the dreaded security check! Why do I always panic when going through security? It’s not like I have anything to hide?
Anyway, the flight was perfect (for Ryanair!) and I arrived in Lisbon at 10.30 am. The sky was bright and it was quite warm. Lisbon Airport was bustling and my first instinct was to look for the metro station. The city centre is only 2 trips on a metro from the airport. The station was super easy to find – directly to the right once you leave from arrivals. What is great is that there is a large information desk if you are unsure. After a quick 10 minute trip to Alameda followed by a 20 minute trip to Martim Moniz, I arrived at my destination – the hostel.
I struggle to find the hostel initially, as the address is not correct. I find it eventually with a little help from my buddy Carsten who had arrived earlier in the morning. Time to settle in, have a shower and see some of the city.
Lisbon is heaving with tourists as we walk through the Alfama district to Sé Cathedral to receive our first sello in Portugal. While walking, numerous 28 Trams speed through the streets with little regard for those in their way. Tourists clamour to take photos as they pass. Tuk-tuk vans whizz by reminding me to stay on the footpath. The Camino calls me louder.
We arrive at Sé Cathedral and I’m blown away by the size of the building. Steps lead into the entrance of the cathedral and then darkness. Carsten has been here earlier in the day and received his sello so he is telling me where to go. Generally, there is a counter on the right-hand side of the entrance and it is manned for those looking for stamps or credentials. However as today was a Sunday, things were different. There was no one behind the counter and a small group was beginning to form outside the sacristy. In broken English, the sacristan was willing to provide sellos and credentials however he made it clear that this was not the norm.
On leaving the cathedral, I immediately could see the first arrow. It was placed on the bottom right-hand side at the entrance. Another can be seen to the right of that on some corrugated iron.
In the small group of pilgrims, we noticed some faces that we would meet in the coming days. There was the duo from Russia, the young man from Hungary and the elderly man from France. We would all know them by names after Lisbon.
For the remainder of the day, we decided to walk to the coast and the Praça do Comércio. It is situated along the Tagus river and with temperatures high in the 30s, the sea breeze was welcome. We took a walk to see the Santa Justa Lift but saw the queue and thought again! This was designed in 1901 by the French architect Raoul Mésnier du Ponsard, an apprentice of Gustave Eiffel.
Food was always on my mind and there are many restaurants lining the many streets of Lisbon. Don’t forget to try the Pastel de nata.
It wasn’t long before we walked up the steep slope to the hostel beside the Castelo. Sleep came naturally but it would be an early start on our first day.