Walking the Camino: Here at last! Our Camino begins…

Oporto to Vila do Conde

A late start out of Porto and luggage loaded in our trusty car. We decided to go by vehicle to our destination, the seaside Vila do Conde and then to walk back towards Porto along the coastal route. After all, this is a Camino with a difference!

The drive through Mosteiro to Vilarinho meandered via tiny hamlets where it seemed that time had stood still for centuries. The yellow way marked arrows directed us past freshly plowed fields, white washed houses and a plenitude of atmospheric, historic church buildings.
Vila do Conde proved to be a delightful town situated on a river with an outlet into the Atlantic Ocean. Our focus here was on flexibility, allowing each person to find their own way to make this journey their own. Some chose to dip their feet into the refreshing water as we stroud beside the waves that crashed gently on the shore. Physically demanding, but a great sense of achievement at having walked a substantial distance along the ancient pilgrim pathway. In the words of one “feeling quite emotional at succeeding in something that I didn’t think I could do!”
Others explored the bobbin lace museum and witnessed demonstrations of this ancient craft that is being kept alive by being taught to school children. All agreed that dinner at a local portuguese-french restaurant, served on china plates, each with its own dustinctive design, was a real highlight at the end if this inaugural Camino day!

Vila do Conde and Barcelos
Today we followed the inland Camino route from the tiny hamlet of Arcos to the more substantial village of Pedra Furada. Via euchalypt forests and village gardens filled with colourful spring flowers, our senses reminded us that we were in the midst of an agricultural district that contributes to sustaining life in other parts of the European Union.
After a very pleasant sojourn at Restaurant Pedra Furada and a chat with our friendly host Antonio, we reached our destination in the early afternoon, thus avoiding the hottest part of the day (which spiked at 33 C). As evening approached, we set out to explore the medieval centre of this beautiful, historic market town and were delighted with the scenery and architecture at every turn! Barcelos, which straddles the river Cavado, dates back to the Roman period. An open air archeological site set high above the river provided fantastic vistas to add to our already ginormous photo collection.
As noted by one “this town is dripping with history!” Another reflected on the fact that “cities such as Venice attract thousands of visitors daily, and yet this little town that is filled with history and awe inspiring buildings is so unassuming – an unknown treasure!” The story of the cockerel that saved a pilgrim from the gallows, that has been adopted as a symbol throughout Portugal, has its origins in Barcelos. Reminders if this ancient tale are found everywhere in the form of giant sized, colourful roosters – and provide another excuse for a photo!

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