Porto - pre-Camino
Arrived in Porto yesterday, Monday, afternoon after a long overnight flight and a 2 hour delayed flight from Frankfurt to Porto. I have been here before; when Diana did her Camino a couple of years ago, I rented a car and the two of us poked our way from Santiago down to Porto, where I left her to return home and she to continue on to Lisbon.
It was August then and extremely hot and since Porto's main centre is built on opposite sides of the very steep banks of the Duoro river, hot and tiring work to climb the steep streets. At this time of year it very beautiful, high blue skies and red tile roofs, and much cooler but still hot, heavy work to scale the streets and walk around town.
Hiked up to the cathedral and picked up my Camino passport and had them stamp it. The Porto cathedral is the starting point of the Portuguese Camino so I guess I have now officially begun, although I think I can say I began in Toronto, for the following reason. The company that booked the accommodations for my walk was also supposed to send me some materials, hotel vouchers etc as well as a shell and a Camino passport. Because the booking was made so late the package never arrived; the materials were emailed to me instead and I learned that I could to go to the cathedral for my passport. The only missing piece was my shell and V was insistent that it was important that I sort out getting one. Needless to say, I was annoyed about chasing around at the last minute to get the booking company to rush me a cheesy nylon windbreaker; didn't want or need it, imagining that it would have the booking company's name plastered all over it and I would march along to Santiago as their walking billboard.
When I calmed down enough to listen and understood that V was talking about a pilgrim's scallop shell and not a nylon wind shell, I realized that a) I should try and find one and b) my 72 years are really beginning to show. So, off to Hooked, a sustainable-fishing, eco-friendly fish store in Toronto and they contributed a scallop shell to my Camino. Diana's take is that that marked the beginning. Whichever, I feel that I have begun.
Interestingly, in the last couple of months, certainly before I made the decision to walk the Camino, I have been re-reading the Canterbury Tales which I had not looked at since university days. Don't know if that wiggled around in the back of my mind and was one of the determinants that tipped me in the direction of the decision, but..... Good thing I didn't re-read Moby Dick or Heart of Darkness.
Food and wine here are really very good. Didn't feel like finding a restaurant last night so decided to eat in the hotel (Carris Hotel) restaurant; it was very good. My starter was a plate of baby octopuses, padron peppers and cornbread. The octopuses were about the size of my thumb, the corn bread was cut into small cubes and along with the peppers which were also about the size of my thumb, all were flash fried in olive oil and herbs and were delicious. Padron peppers are small green, slightly wrinkled peppers with a grassy, slightly bitter taste with the mouth-signature of a hot pepper; that unmistakable sense on the tongue that something very hot is about to arrive, except that with the padron pepper, it never arrives. They are delicious and have all the intoxicating, adrenaline expectation of heat but they are not hot; very good and slightly strange.
My main was a grilled entrecote of veal with truffled potatoes and a couple of glasses of a fabulous, local red. I think my Camino is off to a very good start.