The Camino which took me out of Porto was pleasant. The views were nice. The weather was good. I met and walked with nearly 20 pilgrims, many from Italy, some from Germany, the United States, Spain, and one from Bulgaria.

My new hiking shoes are good. They will need to be broken in. The cost will be fresh blisters on my feet. Advil is my indispensable friend. I use it to keep the swelling down in my feet, which makes the blisters hurt. Walking the Camino is like childbirth. It hurts, sometimes greatly. We return home. Eventually, we only remember the good parts. The pain is often forgotten. We treasure the journey and want to return.

I stop 12.5 kilometers along the way in a large town and find the post office. I ship my old hiking boots, five books and three CDs of Fado music home. For the first time my backpack is no longer overweight. It was as if I was personally punishing myself by carrying so much weight. The journey to joy includes de-acquistioning. We must travel lightly in order travel well.

Pilgrims, who have walked the Camino, tell me that they returned home and spent the next few months throwing out or giving away many things. We are all living with too much. It secretly worries us and creates clutter in our lives. We have too much while others have too little. The Camino teaches us how to recalibrate in order to find balance.

After resting along the way, I finally reach Vila do Conde – my destination for tonight. I have walked a total of 25 miles tonight. It is the most that I shall walk on any given da on this Camino. I used Booking.com to book a shared room in a lovely, new, pink albergue that is among the nicest that I have stayed in. It costs 19 euros. I treat myself to a lovely dinner and two beers for 20 euros. It is my reward.

Vila do Conde is beautiful. It’s the first place in Portugal that I have visited that appears focused on esthetics. The flowers are magnificent. They warm the heart. Beauty transforms us. In France, each town is given a “fleur de lis” ranking of 1 to 5 with 5 being the highest ranking and very rare. Vila do Conde would merit a 4.

We have a new Landscape Committee at Christ Church. We recently added a cloud hedge in front of the church and will add a second at the end of August to balance it out with symmetry. These have been given as memorials in honor of the late Lucy Day by her husband, Nat. During the years ahead, we will see more changes and additions to add beauty to our campus. The landscape and esthetic beauty create a powerful impression upon us before we even enter a building. The set an expectation for what is to come. They gladden the heart, lift our spirit and guide us to God.

This night, I share a room with five men , who take turns snoring, some heroically. Ear plugs are the one indispensable item for hiking the Camino, if you stay in albergues. Two of my roommates are Germans. One is Portuguese and another is Polish. One haggard hiker arrives at 10:30 pm. Most albergues in Spain close by 9 or 9:30 pm. They stop checking people in by 6, 7 or 8 pm. This albergue is rare. It has someone at the receptionist desk 24/7.

The Polish man in our room – Matheus – is walking his first Camino. This is his first day. He lays his clothing out neatly ready for the next day. I’m impressed. No one does this. My bed feels great.

Sleep. A shower. A good meal. A cold beer. A friendly conversation. Beautiful views. Encounters with history. A powerful conversation. An insight into life or into oneself. Time for silence. Moments of reflection. Silence. Walking in nature. Great exercise. A chance to pray constantly. A new friendship. A kindness from a fellow pilgrim or someone that we meet along the way. These are some of the gifts that we enjoy each day along the Camino. For this we are grateful.

With love and prayers from Portugal,
Marek