Monday, May 8, 2023

Day 1 - 7 May - Burnley to Porto

As The Four Seasons famously sang:

Walk like a man, talk like a man. Walk like a man my son. We hope it isn’t long, ‘til Ashley’s been and gone. So walk like a man my son.

Fail to prepare, then prepare to fail. This auspicious weekend of the King’s coronation saw the culmination of seventy plus years of preparation on the part of Prince Charles, monarch-in-waiting, to fulfil his destiny to become King. He may be the winner of the longevity-in-preparation award but anyone who has embarked upon the Camino de Santiago will know a thing or two about preparation also. And I’d bet that Charles has never had to pack his own rucksack, certainly not with the often conflicting objectives that it pass through airport security, fit into a space not more than 45 x 30 x 20cm and hold your worldly belongings for whatever period of time your Camino adventure demands. So stick that in your royal pipe with your sausage fingers and smoke it Charlie-boy.

Having met up with Mick and Andrea at Manchester airport this afternoon, we spent a fun half an hour endeavouring to prove that our respective rucksacks would indeed fit into one of EasyJet's bag-sizer contraptions, our having located a redundant one in a quieter part of the airport. And they all did, just about, courtesy of my wearing-extra-clothes-expertise and Mick’s ability to wear two pairs of trousers.

In the event, once the departure gate was called, all passengers were efficiently herded onto the plane without any baggage sizing taking place and, by the time our seat belts were buckled, my Michelin Man costume was safely back in the rucksack.

Preparation is the key but not everything goes to plan, even when one has prepared well. When you book your flights and make various arrangements several months ahead, you have no way of knowing exactly the state of health that you, or indeed ones fellow travellers, may be experiencing at the time of travel. One may have a bit of a sniffle, or a bad case of conjunctivitis, or even an Ashley (as in Ashley Giles). Or a Nobby (as in Nobby Stiles). Rhymes with Giles. Or Stiles. Yes, one of our party has an Ashley. And when you have an Ashley, then the real challenge comes after you have passed through airport security. With only one, see-through plastic bag allowed for toiletries, the challenge is to make very sure that you don’t inadvertently, later in the day, confuse your tube of Preparation H with the Ralgex Deep Heat in the same bag. Do not fail to prepare.

Far be it from me to divulge the identity of Ashley’s owner but it isn’t me and if it had been one of the girls they probably wouldn’t have told me anyway. Anyway, we can but hope that Ashley behaves himself on tomorrow’s fifteen miles.

Is there anything more symbolic of the British elite than cucumber sandwiches? Personally, I can’t abide cucumber. What is it good for, absolutely nothing. What is it good for, absolutely nothing. It repeats on me, you see. So I avoid it at all costs. With a landing time at Porto scheduled for half past eight, I wasn’t confident that we would find anything to eat anywhere close to our near-to-the-airport hostel, so I opted for an EasyJet meal deal consisting sandwich, cup of tea and pan-au-chocolate for a not unreasonable price of £8.95. And with it being the coronation weekend, what more appropriate sandwich offering than the coronation chicken? 

Probably something without cucumber in it, as it happens. 

Bloody hell, why do sandwich-makers insist on putting cucumber in their sarnies? I’m not part of the British elite. I am one of the great un-washed and if I wanted cucumber in my sandwich I would choose something “with cucumber” in the description. It became necessary therefore to inspect the remaining, one-bite-gone, sandwich for more of the offending article which also, as it transpired, offered opportunity to play the find-the-pieces-of-chicken game. Hmmm. 

A cup of tea (?) you might also ask. Yes, after consecutive nights on the ale, I felt it best to be circumspect on the beer front, hence no beer at the airport or on the plane.

Once landed and safely through customs, the four of us walked the half mile or so to our pre-booked hostel, arriving at around nine o’clock. Two fellow travellers were sat in the reception area drinking bottles of beer which augured well for a modest nightcap once we were settled in. The nice young chap at reception showed us to the three bunk-bed (six-bed) dorm and gave me the key code for the dorm door which was #90000. I don’t have the best of track records with door entry codes so I felt it best to have a little practice whilst Mrs C and the others were in the dorm. Nope. Six attempts. Six fails. Our two dorm-buddies appeared, a nice young Spanish couple called Oscar and Annie, both of whom spoke good English. I introduced myself and told them that the door entry code wasn’t working, showing them the little slip of paper on which #90000 was written. Annie took the slip of paper from my hand, turned it through one hundred and eighty degrees and returned it to me. As it turned out I had a lot more success with 00006#. Oh, how we all laughed.

A quick sort-out of respective rucksacks and we then popped back downstairs for a well-deserved………….cup of tea. Yes, they had beer. Yes, only of the non-alcoholic variety. What’s the point of that?

Back in the dorm by ten o’clock as we had promised Oscar and Annie we would be, because they had an early flight back to northern Spain in the morning. We won’t see them again but if everyone we meet, going forward, is as nice as them then we won’t go far wrong. Tomorrow, the adventure starts for real. Boa noite and Bom Caminho! Let’s hope we’re prepared.

Hostel life.

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