My son Steve was a little concerned that I had booked us on an Easy Jet flight from Luton to Porto. Easy Jet had completely turned around I assured him, great airline. I had met their CEO, Carolyn McCall ( now Dame Carolyn ) and she was into breathing!
Use of app, checking-in, boarding – all was effortless. The plane doors closed and then – we were told that there was a potential four to six-hour delay, French air traffic controllers were on strike. What! Best that we were all boarded we were advised, an opportunity to take off might arise earlier – six hours was the worst case scenario.
Well of course we couldn’t blame Easy Jet for the French situation, but was it really necessary for us to have to sit all this time on the runway? Yet it turned out to be a well thought out approach. We took off only one and a half hours late, everyone was delighted, perfect execution of expectation management.
And so we arrived in Porto. Neither of us is particularly well organised in travel management, but we had looked at the guidebook on the flight ( it was fortunate, actually, that we had had some extra time for this ) and we had a few options in mind of where we would spend our first night. The airport information staff were really helpful in guiding us to the train. All went smoothly and we found ourselves a small hostel before heading off to the cathedral to collect our Peregrino passports. Sampling of the local beverage, lovely Portuguese food and hospitality and our journey together on the Camino Portugues began.
After a good breakfast we set off from the beautiful and imposing Porto Cathedral The 26.9 kilometres we had in mind, we found, is not the prettiest route. A lot of concrete really, a few farms eventually and a monastery. And I hadn’t set off on our journey with the notion that I was going on a pilgrimage, I must say. I was off walking. To paraphrase the line from ‘Trainspotting’ “we’re Scottish, that’s what whit we dae”. But the Camino, it is said, is not about the journey on the outside, rather it is a pilgrimage looking in. As John Brierly put it
The route may still have its ups and downs but the overall direction is set, the way-marks clear and the destination assured. The only choice I have left is how long it will take me to arrive…
So with Steve’s previous experience on a Camino, and John Brierly’s words (and excellent guidebook from Findhorn Press ) we set off discussing what it was we wanted to get out of this journey together…
We both wanted to spend quality time together; some personal inner reflection and figuring out what might be next. Both of us had embarked on our separate sabbaticals three months earlier, unsure of where we individually wanted that to take us.
We arrived in Vilarinho early evening. The Albergue we had targeted for the night was full. But no problem. The lady there made a call to a friend. We had someone’s house for the night, a family away on holiday. A whole place to ourselves for ten Euros each! This sort of generosity was a a precursor for all that was to follow.