May 7th 2022 – Day 1
- Porto to Vila do Conde
- Distance: 25km from Foz do Douro
- Albergue: Balada dos Mares Vila
Day One starts…Getting up was the easy part. I was awake at 3am with excitement. My pack was ready on the ground below me as I lay on the top bunk. My pilgrim companions were asleep but woke as I shuffled down from the top bunk, careful not to wake our tourist guest. We had decided to walk our separate ways today, but we would meet in Vila do Conde at the end of the day. Wallace would take the metro to Matosinhos while Ray and myself would walk from Foz do Douro. Getting to Foz do Douro is easy and there are regular buses from outside Sao Bento Station to Igreja da Foz. A single ticket costs €2 and it takes 20 minutes to get there. The bus travels the Camino until we needed to step off. My time in Portugal has been a day long and I am still struggling with their language. I listen to the voice on the bus name all the bus stops and I try to repeat each in my own uncanny way. I have always preferred Spanish!
Arriving at Foz do Douro, we are greeted by a thick mist – enough to get you wet. The sun will be out later! We start walking but we are in no great hurry. The sea to the left of us greets us and makes us aware of her presence. It reminds me of the sea from home – it will be our companion for the next week or so. People are out and about, either jogging or going to work. We approach Matasinhos and immediately see it’s large sculptures at its entrance. One looks like a large fishing net – to symbolise the trade in this area possibly? It is impressive but the tourist office catches my eye. It doesn’t open until 9.30am so we decide to wait until it opens for our first sello.
On the beach beside the tourist office, there appears to be a beach volleyball club gathering. There were several nets with various teams lined out. Silence is broken by the sounds of friendly competition. Children appear and things are getting lively. A café opens and we have our 2nd breakfast – ham and eggs with café com leite, with my eyes always gazing toward the sea. Six kilometres down – all good. The tourist office provided us with our sello and a badge which I have kept. Leaving the town, we met a lot of new pilgrims who had left Porto on the metro. The metro stops just underneath the Rio Leca bridge – a drawbridge which can cause a pilgrim some delays if a boat is on the way. Luckily the tide was clear, and we walked safely over.
At Leca da Palmeira, we were away from the coast until we worked out which way was what. Our first sight along the coast would be the Boa Nova Lighthouse which is the second tallest in Portugal at 46 metres. At 10.30am, the sun was starting to make an appearance, and so were the praias or beaches. It wasn’t long before we saw our first boardwalk – I find walking on this easier than on cobblestone or asphalt. It was a joy to walk on and it felt like I was skipping on it at times.
At Lavra, we stopped for a drink before walking on. At Angeiras we walked through a fishing village. I found it cool that the Camino goes through a village that lives, breathes and exists on the fishing industry. We see fisherman take in the daily catch, we were late for the market however, but there were boats and nets ready for the next day’s work. This would not be first time we would witness this as there are further villages ahead dependent on fish.
It was at this point that I received a message from the hostel owner. She would only be available to check us in at 2pm – as she needed to be elsewhere. There was no way I could be in Vila do Conde at 2pm however as most of the walk was on boardwalk, I would try my best. I tried not to let this affect the day and I let my brother walk behind me. The walk along the beach is beautiful and I even met a few pilgrims on my walk into Vila do Conde. A girl from the Czech Republic started from Porto that same morning was walking to Santiago but taking the Spiritual Route and a lady from Canada who spoke French. I knew a little bit of French, so we got by.
Vila do Conde is beautiful and crossing the river into the town reminds me of Najera. The Santa Clara monastery is the first thing you see as you cross the river. It did take me a while to locate the hostel at the far end of the town. We found a place that served a pilgrim meal also, so we were happy with that. Ray arrived in later with Wallace – next time I’ll try to take my time on the Camino.
To Fao tomorrow. Bom Caminho!