Day 0: Porto - Valença / Tui
I took a bus this morning from Porto to Valença, which borders the town of Tui in Spain. This is the official and most traditional staring point for the Portuguese Camino. The ride here was very pleasant, hugging the coast of Portugal and through so many beautiful towns. Many of which are a part of the Portuguese Camino Coastal route. As I got off the bus, I noticed an older man place his backpack on a bench preparing to get ready to walk. I walk to the bench to fix my own backpack and repack a few items I had removed for the bus ride. I was rushing a little because the old man looked like a pilgrim and I figure I’d follow him till we get into town. My guess is he picked up my vibe because he looked at me and asked if I was there to walk the Camino. He tells me his is heading to Tui for the day so he can start his walk early tomorrow morning. We leave the station together, go up a hill and he starts pointing at yellow arrows as soon as we leave the station. The yellow arrows mark the way to Santiago de Compostela and if you follow the arrows you don't get lost. Except that these arrows can be just about anywhere. The yellow arrows started popping out in front of us: on walls, trees, on the ground, on street signs, etc. The old man knew his way into Tui and got us there very quickly. He even knew how to avoid the steepest climbs along the way. He went to the Albergue El Camino and I followed. This was my second time in an Albergue (first one was in Porto) so I wanted to see it before committing to staying there. The hospitaleira wasn’t in when we arrived and the place was kind of empty. I waked around, checkout the rooms, the bathrooms, the showers and it was all very nice and clean. The living room was cozy and the kitchen was clean and functional. The upstairs bedrooms were taken but the two bedrooms downstairs were empty. Each bedroom had a nice window and three bunk beds. Each one of the beds had clean sheets, a really fluffy pillow and a semi-heavy duvet/blanket. It all looked very nice and welcoming and smelled clean. I chose to stay in the same bedroom as the old man. A younger guy arrived later that day and shared the bedroom with us. I was the only one on my bunk bed so I moved up when it was time to sleep. Later that afternoon, the old man and I walked to the Cathedral to get our credentials stamped. There was a very large bagpipe band rehearsing outside the cathedral so we stopped to listen and take a few pictures. On the way back to the albergue, I stopped at a grocery store bought some cheese, chorizo, bread and wine. I told myself I’d have a glass of wine every evening during the Camino because Spanish wines are my favorite. I even like the ones I’ve never tried. I am now sitting at this cozy living room playing translator since after dinner. Apparently, I am the only one here today who understands both Spanish and English. Lourdes, our very nice hospitaleira, looks at me every time she needs help with English. So far, I have talked to everyone who is staying here for the night, which is a nice way of getting me out of my antisocial tendencies (i.e. shyness). I am really enjoying this. I am sitting in this cozy living room, drinking some Spanish red, taking to people, and listening to bagpipes rehearsing outside for tomorrow's town festival.
Edit 1: I fist wrote this post on my iPhone. It was just free writing without any editing which was a technique I used to get my thoughts on the blog. Now, I am sitting on my living room reading all the incomplete sentences and typos and I made that day. I am sure I’m still missing typos and overlooking mistakes. I am enjoying too much reliving the time I spent in Tui and at the Albergue El Camino. Btw, this place costs 12 euros and it’s right by the “entrance” to the Camino. I am sure there are other ways to take the Camino but this way was beautiful. I am glad started the Camino there.
Edit 2: The old man. I don’t know his name. He didn’t ask my name and I didn’t ask his. My guess is he’s in his late 60s or early 70s. He’s Portuguese and he’s a gentleman. He reminded me a lot of my dad because he was very fatherly. He showed me the way to the Albergue, took me to the Cathedral, tried to find me a place to buy a SIM card, and even insisted that I take a couple of his safety pins and some instant coffee. When we met he was about to walk his fourth Camino. In the morning he said good-bye and called me ‘companheira’ which means comrade. This is a word my father used a lot. When that happened, as funny or sappy as it may sound, I felt that my dad sent the old man there to welcome me and get me started the Camino. I am sure is always looking out for me because he always did. I can’t explain but at that moment I felt safe and I knew that I’d be just fine during my Camino.