There is no need to take a map on this walk as it, like the Camino Frances, is well signposted by yellow arrows pointing the way, but I knew getting out of Porto was not going to be easy as the arrows were often lost in a confusion of other road signs. Get it wrong and you could find yourself in Madrid.
There was the option to cut out this arduous route march altogether. Many choose to take the bus for 10 miles which gets them out of the city, but I see very little point in that. Unfortunately we can't cut the bad bits out of our life and if I had taken this option I would not have walked from Porto to Santiago. But who would care? Well, I would for one.
The second arrow I found on a traffic sign at the bottom of the hill and then others started pulling me up through the cobbled lanes. Now I was beginning to feel it and I had only gone a mile. Like all treks, no matter how much training you do at home you never really get into your stride until the third or forth day.
Eventually I reached the old prison and I could see from the faces of those scurrying off to work that they were displaying Monday morning blues as they stuffed their ears with iPhones and their mouths with coffee scalding out of polystyrene cups. It brought back memories long forgotten and so I plodded on. Outside the Carmelite church with its beautiful blue tiles I got my first Bon Camino. On the Camino Frances it is a regular greeting from the locals but not so in Portugal, more followed and I find it difficult to explain how uplifting those two words are given generously by strangers.
Passing quickly through the shopping area I entered the suburbs. Dour, dusty, and somewhat depressing. As I made my way along I thought I would treat myself to some goats cheese for dinner. Always been very partial to that, the stronger the better. The owners of small corner shop did not speak English or French and I don't and probably never will speak Portuguese. So after the owner got his complete cheeses selection out of the fridge I could see no goat's cheese and thought it was time for some positive action. So I put two fingers up beside my ears and threw my head around in a butting action. That worked, thank goodness. 'So have you got it?, I asked. Nodding furiously and apparently so pleased his face suddenly turned to stone. 'No!' He said, replacing several packets of cheeses that were slowly turning green having had been out of the fridge for some time.
Leaving the shop I could feel eyes on me and over the road a man was looking at me intently. He was about sixty, heavy build with a solemn long grey face, jet black moustache and slicked back silver hair. His suit was a somber black. The sign on the premises above his head read. Funeral Parlour. He definitely had me in his sights and I could feel myself shivering as if someone had walked over my grave. Perhaps it was him.
As I hurried away he would not take his gaze from me. I began to feel that I might be on his list, a feeling enhanced when I had to pass through a graveyard that contained fifty shades of architecture from baroque through to classical with a bit of modernist thrown in for good luck. Needless to say I'm still here, but for how long?. I'm sure there was a date on the paper he was holding out to me. Of course, he might have been touting for business, we'll if he want's mine he's going to have to wait.
The rest of the journey was hard. Walking into a northerly wind over miles of uneven cobbles before having to negotiate the mad Portuguese drivers who know two speeds, fast and bloody fast.
But, the end if the day was great. I am sitting in the garden of the beautiful Casa Laura. The sun is shining and a caged canary is sing to me. My clothes are drying in June sun and my socks no longer come when I whistle. I have a room with a choice of ten beds, including a double, and if no one else comes here I will use them all. Thick towels and perfumed soap are all provided in an immaculate ablutions room. Orange juice, tea, coffee biscuits and fruit are all free. The best bit is, it only cost 10 euro. So if my funerial friend was trying to tell me something then this will do nicely, thank you.