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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