Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Sao Joao da Madeira to Grijo

This morning began with piping hot croissants, quince jam, and coffee for breakfast at the hotel. There were even extra buns that we took with us as extra provisions for the trail.

We again headed out into a thick fog, reminiscent of the fog banks we encountered on the other side of the Atlantic, on the East Coast Trail in Newfoundland Canada.

As we climbed up out of Sao Joao we walked through some very beautiful and well cared-for neighborhoods which I suspect had a fantastic view back over the city. We also passed through some industrial areas, complete with both functional and abandoned factories.

When we reached the top of the hill we passed the magnificent tiled cathedral. Like most of the churches and cathedrals we've passed so far it was closed.

What followed next was a walk along a busy connector road, filled with the kind of businesses you find on the edges of many towns in North America - repair places, furniture stores, building centers, and highway restaurants. It was extremely busy and not too pleasant,although thankfully there was a sidewalk.

At one point the arrows seemed to direct us into a subdivision, but then turned suddenly blue only (to Fatima). Luckily a lady was out on her balcony and pointed us and the two other pilgrims we were with back to the highway. One of the tricks we've learned on this Camino is that when the yellow arrows vanish on spots, you can usually find a blue arrow for Fatima, and head in the opposite direction. In Portugal the route to Fatima is clearly held in much higher esteem, and always very well marked.

We stopped at the Souto cafe mid-morning, and enjoyed a coffee, two coconut pastries, and two almond cookies. Antonio, the bar owner brought out a data sheet and diligently marked down that two Canadians had stopped in his bar. He showed us his previous sheets, and it looked like Italians were by far the most prevalent nationality on this Camino. We learned afterwards that this bar also offers a stamp, but we missed this opportunity.

After this point the path wended through a mix of hillside neighborhoods, industrial areas, older villages, and more modern developments. We had to cross busy highways a few times on rather blind corners, but the walking and traffic were not too bad.

We spent the day leap frigging with Rita and Michael. We were all heading to the donativo albergue in Grijo, which we arrived at around noon. It is a beautiful place with bunk beds, a kitchen, a large back yard with laundry facilities, and a level walled courtyard in the front. There is also a market and bar right outside the door.

We did our chores, had a pint and sandwich next door, and then walked into the central area of Grijo, which is about a 10 min walk down the way. To get there we walked down a cobblestone street around the old stone walls of the monastery. It looks very peaceful inside.

There is a small collection of bars, restaurants, and shops in Grijo, as well as a market. We bought some pasta, veggies, sauce, and wine yo make for dinner, and headed back for a relaxing afternoon in the courtyard.

We were eventually joined by Peter, Sue, and Rita who are all staying here as well.  We sat around and chatted until dinner, and then went inside to make dinner.  Sean and I made pasta and veggie sauce, and Sue made salad and boiled eggs.  There was plenty of wine, and we shared a fantastic meal together in the courtyard that stretched on towards bedtime.  Just before bed, Peter brought a few kumquats in from the tree in the backyard.  They were ripe and very tasty.  I remember my dad saying he harvested them from a tree in his backyard growing up in Miami, and I can definitely see why!

Once again it was a lovely evening on the Camino!
Accommodations: Albergue San Salvador de Grijo
Distance: 20.5 km

Monday, April 29, 2019

Albergaria a Nova to Sao Joao da Madeira

We headed out around 6:20 this morning in an effort to cover some ground before the heat of the day set in. When we left the albergue we were greeted with a magical landscape where everything was shrouded in thick fog.


As we passed through town we saw the remnants of last night's celebrations, which carried on into the wee hours of the morning. A festive looking archway was particularly beautiful in the fog.


A new addition to our Camino came relatively early in the morning, when we found ourselves walking down a set of train tracks. This felt very strange, but eventually the tracks brought us to a railway cafe that was open and serving coffee. Since we hadn't had any breakfast, this was a very welcome find.

After that point the Camino took us through various hillside towns that seem to lie on the outskirts of both Coimbra and Porto. One of the interesting things about Spain and Portugal for people from North America is that even in cities and suburbs there are still fantastic gardens, and animals, including chickens, horses, goats, and sheep.

Our trek northwards continued through the morning fog and back out into the countryside.


A definite high point of the morning was the village of Pembosa, which had many evident traces of Roman occupation, as well as quite a few 15th century buildings complete with plaques to explain their historical context and significance (English translation included). We spent quite a bit of time in this magnificent stretch of the Camino, and enjoyed ourselves enormously.

After that we wound our way through more villages and more modern suburbs, stopping around 10:30 for another coffee and pastry. Many of the pastries I've seen here I think will contain apples, but turn out to be custard filled instead, and this morning's selection was no exception. While I like custard, I find it rich and very sweet.


By mid-morning we found ourselves in Oliveira de Azemeis, which is a charming town with a beautiful tiled church, a nice central square, and a cobblestone main street that is closed off to cars. We passed quite a few cafes and bakeries before succumbing to temptation and stopping for a coffee and almond and honey tart. It was extremely good, but turned out to be one too many pastries for both of us.

We continued the trek in to Sao Joao through increasingly suburban neighbourhoods, many with apartment buildings. The approach to the city involved quite a steep climb up through quite busy streets, in what had turned out to be a bright and sunny day.


As we approached the city, we ran into the two French ladies and the Italian. They are usually way ahead of us each day, and they seemed a little unnerved that we had caught up to them. The clicking of their hiking sticks definitely picked up in speed upon our arrival on the scene.


When we reached the edge of town we followed a very busy, treed street for a while, and then lost the arrows for the Camino. They were probably present, but we were unable to locate them, so we decided to follow the street signs for the city centre instead. This eventually lead us to the main 'square' (or circle), where we found the Solar Hotel. We checked in, and found ourselves in a very nice room.

We spent a while doing nothing much, and then set out on a self guided walking tour of the city. Somehow this town just doesn't appeal to us. It is a bizarre mix of very wealthy people and high end stores, 1980's fashions and beauty salons, and poverty

Today the juxtaposition of old and new really struck us. As we've hiked across Portugal we've seen many neighbourhoods where abandoned buildings border beautiful houses. In other areas old houses are being torn down and replaced with new condos and developments. Many sections of the old Roman roads we've walked have been paved over with thick layers of ash vault. It seems a shame to lose the older, more permanent structures in favour of newer, less durable constructions.

After our walking tour we headed down to the main square to do some blogging.

As we enjoyed a glass of wine Peter and Sue turned up and joined us. We eventually headed to a small Portuguese restaurant down a side street for dinner together, and Sue managed to arrange for the grandmother, who was the chef, to make an omelette for us. Our meal, which was fantastic, consisted of wine, bread, salad, an omelette and fries, and cheesecake with berries for dessert.


After dinner we headed home, sleepy, full, and happy.

Accommodations: Solar Hotel
Distance: 24.1 km

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