Those boots were made for walking
I am walking the Camino Portugese from Porto to Santiago. I should have been leaving from Lisbon, but a bit of folly with a fir tree and a chain saw resulted in a couple of cracked ribs and a rescheduled trip with less time. I am now a sorer but wiser feller.
The flights to get here were uneventful: Victoria to Ottawa (via Toronto), Ottawa to Frankfurt, and Frankfurt to Porto. What a tiresome airport is Frankfurt! Long queues to get through immigration, a busy bustle back through security to the domestic flights, a very long walk to the gate, and then a crowded bus ride to the plane. In security, something about my person must have aroused suspicion, because after a body scan, the guard took me aside for a physical check, had me remove my boots, and gave my calves a very good feel.
This year I am wearing a pair of Zamberlans, my third pair, and therein lies a story. My first pair of Zambs had worn out after fifteen years and thousands of miles, but my second pair lasted only two years. These I returned, but declined a refund when the employee explained that I had in fact received fair value since the soles of hiking boots were now built for comfort rather than durability.
You may remember that in the fall I had worn a pair of very expensive Scarpas. Well, at the end of the walk the heel was within a millimetre or two of wearing through the black rubber into the softer grey compound beneath, and that's when the sole falls apart. Again I returned to MEC, told the story of my Zambs, presented my Scarpas, and said that this time, I would happily accept a refund.
She readily agreed, and it must have been the right thing to do, because, after I had bought my third pair of Zambs, and received credit at the store for the balance of the refund, I went back to buy some Darn Tough socks (lifetime guarantee) for a total of $67.20. And how much was the credit remaining on my account? $67.20!
My second pair of Zambs are living happily in retirement on Mayne Island, housing a couple of red geraniums.
I wasn't sure whether to walk the regular Camino Portuguese or follow the coastal variant, but as the plane approached the airport it cruised along the coast for a while, and I could actually see the path along the shore. It looked appealing. And when I visited the tourist bureau in the centre of Porto, and posed the question of which route to take, the woman warned me of dangerous road walking at the beginning of the standard route, so I walked down from the cathedral to the Rio Douro, followed the right bank down to the sea, and then walked along the coast to Matasinhos.
From time to time, I was passed by a quaint old tram, advertising Irish whisky and chocabloc with tourists. What a hit this would be in Victoria!, I thought, running from Ogden Point, around the harbour, along Government Street and across the new bridge to Esquimalt. Two hundred cruise ships, thousands of passengers on each. It's a no brainer!
There is nothing more boring than a tale of another person's series of mishaps, so I won't tell you of my misadventures and missing stops on the Metro as I took an unintended circuitous route downtown, but I will tell you of the response to a more serious mistake I made, in saying 'Gracias' to a person who gave me directions on the street.
"Never, never say 'Gracias'", he said. "Say 'Thank you', or 'Merci', or better, 'Obrigado'.
But never, never, never say "Gracias".
Chastened, I walked on. Clearly, the Portugese on their thin slice of the Iberian Pennsular, guard their language as fiercely as the Québécois in Canada. And apparently, there are a dozen ways of saying thank you in Portugese, each with its nuances, and using the wrong one can give offence.
I can recommend the Hotel Leca da Palmeira in Matasinhos, clean and comfortable, with a generous breakfast, for 36 €. Obrigardissimo!