What were we thinking! Lisboa to Vilafranca de Xira - 33 kms.
At about kilometre 28 today as Dayton and I were desperately quenching our thirst with a couple of Ginger Ales and lemonades, Dayton bemoaning sore Achilles and aching knees, me equally feeling my age with aching hips and tender feet, we looked at one another and started laughing. What were we thinking to head out on another Camino without a single day of training with or without backpacks? There is no fool like an old fool I guess.
However, all in all, it was a good day; not an easy day, but a good day. By 6:45am this morning we had 'mefixed' up our toes, packed our packs, had the hotel concierge take our photo and we headed out through the quiet boulevards of Lisbon towards the Catedral Sé to start following the yellow and blue arrows of the Camino. Like any early walk worthy of the Camino name, the road went uphill for the first hour and by uphill think incline tread set somewhere between breathtaking and coronary arrest, then add cobblestone roads and a 30lb backpack (although mine might have been a wee bit lighter). Whew! On the outskirts of Lisbon we started to follow a beautiful river walk along the River Tejo sharing the path with all the early morning walkers and joggers. We thought we might see more pilgrims because, when we tried to get Portuguese Pilgrim Passports at the cathedral, we had been told they had had so many pilgrims setting out that they were back ordered on passports. We only saw four other pilgrims today, a couple of Italian men who were lying on the sidewalk in a little patch of shade, heads resting on their packs and bare feet cooling in the breeze and another couple of men from Malta. The guys from Malta had small day packs and huge cameras. They had arrived late last night and decided to pay $20.00 each to send their packs ahead. We were suitably impressed when they stated they were planning to walk 40kms today but they said they were pretty good walkers and apparently they are because they marched out ahead of us and we're out of sight never to be seen again. We will happily settle for filling up our Canadian Pilgrim passports.
It was a sunny hot day and we should have put on sunscreen but the sunscreen was tucked away safely in Dayton's pack so it would not get lost and apparently so it would not be used.
For those new to the Camino concept, pilgrims carry a special passport which gets stamped at the end of each of their walking stages. The passport verifies that they are indeed pilgrims, allows them to stay at the pilgrim albergues and, once reaching Santiago qualifies them for a Compostella, the certificate stating they had completed the Camino.
The first few stages of this route are shared by the Camino Fatima and the Camino Portuguese de Santiago. May 13 marks the date when in 1917 the vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to three young shepherd children so it is expected that the trail will be very busy over the coming days. Later in the afternoon we saw a large group of pilgrims heading to Fatima, mainly women and not that young, all wearing yellow safety vests finishing lunch at the side of the road. Their leader was using a megaphone to encourage them to finish up and get going. It was like herding cats. It turns out that all these fifty pilgrims are staying at our lovely little Hostel DP. They are a very chatty group and even though we were offered the opportunity to have dinner with them at our hotel, we have opted to head out to eat. Before dinner we sat at a little cafe and shared three glasses of wine and an order of Portuguese bread...€2.45! And the wine glass is filled to the brim. BTW I made Dayton pass on the snails.
I only know three words in Portuguese, obrigada which means thank you, carimba which means stamp and I forget the third word. Our lack of fluency means everything is a surprise, especially meals. Tonight we learned that no restaurants served dinner before 7:00pm so after a couple of glasses of vino branca at a little restaurant we went to dinner at a 'hamburger joint'. Earlier in the evening we had met the owner and cook of this hamburger place and he asked us to come back for dinner. When we did he could not do enough for us to make this dinner special. Dayton had a surprise (because we didn't understand a word of the menu or of the owner) starter which was an elegant dish of pineapple, strawberries, prosciutto, smoked salmon and garlic tzatiki and then we both had amazing burgers; mine, a tofu burger with sautéed mushrooms and spinach and Dayton's was a humoungous burger with jambon & Gorgonzola sauce and the fries came with a garlic aioli sauce. Oh, and with this elegant hamburger meal came a full bottle of crisp white wine...all for €33.00!!! Dinner kind of negated our 33 km hot walk today but it was so worth it. Best vegetarian meal I have had in Europe.