I think all of us slept very well last night. Tommy was nice enough to go into the village and buy all of us croissants for breakfast. It’s always good to have something to eat before hiking. Together, we continued walking the coastal route past a spot along the beach called São Paio where we all stopped to remove some layers of clothing and take a small break before going on. I wasn’t in the mood to just sit around after barely getting started so I left before everyone else and stopped briefly near the Capela de São Paio to see if I could find anything relating to the Iron Age settlement that my guidebook said would be here. I didn’t see anything. The others caught up with me in the fishing town of Vila Chã where we stopped to have some coffee. Just beside the café was the community lavoir with several women doing laundry by hand and exchanging gossip. After walking several hours through roads that led through dunes and marshes of Mindelo, I finally reached the town just before Vila do Conde called Azurara where I came to a church called Igreja de Santa Maria de Azurara. I wanted to go inside but the doors were closes so I started to walk around the exterior until I saw an elderyl lady with two buckets of flowers unlocking the doors. I asked her if I could come inside and she graciously took me by the hand and led me around the interior of the church. At nearly every side chapel she would stop and point, speaking to me in Portuguese about what I was seeing and giving me the names of several religious statues. I didn’t understand much at all but she kept talking anyway. Eventually, I left the church and the old lady wished me a “Bom Caminho” (the traditional Portuguese greeting and farewell to Camino pilgrims). From one side of the River Ave before crossing the bridge into town, one is greeted by the imposing walls of the huge convent of Santa Clara, one of the biggest and richest convents in Portugal, founded in 1318, by Afonso Sanches and his wife, Teresa Martins. The views entering the city are so breath-taking that I almost failed to see my friends who were waving at me to come and sit with them at a nice restaurant on the village square called Le Villageois. I had fish soup and a smoked tuna salad. While the others left Vila do Conde without exploring, I decided to stay and have a good look around. The park along the river is shaded with trees and lined with monuments to the city’s past like this one called Rendilheira, a tribute to the town’s lace making history. The medieval part of town is famous for its 17th century Capela de Nossa Senhora do Socorro and its white dome implanted on a rocky escarpment over the Ave River and overlooking the harbour. The interior is quite small with a square plan and covered in 18th century azulejos which show the life of Christ. In the nearby park is a replica of a sixteenth century Portuguese sailing ship, a tribute to the carpenters and master naval builders who contributed throughout the centuries toward placing Vila do Conde on the map. This is another park along the river called the Praça D. João II. At the top of the hill leaving the town is the Convento de Santa Clara with its imposing church. Beside it are the remains of the Aqueducto de Vila do Conde -- initially constructed between 1705 and 1714, it had 999 arches and ran for four kilometres. It is the second longest in Portugal, connecting a spring in Terroso, Póvoa de Varzim, with a fountain inside the Convento. The way out of town was very hot (I had very little drinking water left, and nowhere to fill up my canteen) and along asphalt or cobblestone streets which were just awful on my feet. Nearly a third of the Camino Portugués is along roadways like this while another third are on extremely dangerous, uneven and rocky paths. (On a personal note, I don’t think I’ll ever walk this route again because it is so poorly maintained.) I eventually caught up with my friends at the monastery church, Igreja de São Simão da Junqueira founded in the 11th century. It’s a shame we couldn’t go inside and take a look. Most churches are closed in the afternoons. From here we walked through vast fields of bright yellow flowers, freshly cut hay and grapevines trained to grow in right angles high above the ground. Sâo Pedro de Rates is most famous for its Romanesque church begun in the 12th century and the holy relics that once were kept inside. Saint Peter of Rates is traditionally considered to be the first bishop of Braga between the years 45 and 60. Tradition says he was ordered to preach the Christian faith by Saint James the Great. He was beheaded in Rates due to converting pagans to Christianity. Centuries later, around the 9th century, Saint Félix, a hermit, discovered the remains and had a monastery built on the spot. The relics of the saints were kept here until 1552 when they were transferred to Braga cathedral where they have been ever since. I don’t believe that any of us were pleased with the albergue; even the wilde Ostern turned around and found a different accommodation. The property has a large courtyard for drying clothes and relaxing and also provides access to a small museum displaying objects typical of rural life in the area. An interesting building called the Casa de Lavrador can also be found on the property next to the large windmill. I claimed a bed in one room but had to change when I realized two small children, undisciplined by their parents, were screaming and crying uncontrollably. We were all pretty hungry and headed out for dinner at the Café San Antonio where they only served a few dishes—all of us had fish and caldo verde for about 9 Euros each. Distance walked today was about 29 kilometers.