Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Grijo to Porto

We were up at 6 am, and on our way out of the albergue by 6:30 am. In the cool morning mist we followed the 10 ft high stone wall around the outside of the monastery, imagining all the magical creatures that inhabited the forest within. We walked through the cemetery, amazed to see fresh flowers and lit candles on almost every grave. Under two majestic, tall, dark trees we turned and walked in to the monastery. It was empty and quiet within, and very peaceful, even though all we could do was walk up the drive to admire the outside of the church.

When we reached the town center of Grijo we stopped in the bakery for breakfast. The other pilgrims from our hostel were there, and as we sat down to enjoy our coffees and apple tarts we were joined by Rita. It was a busy, friendly place.

After leaving the bakery the Way continued to follow the monastery wall into the mist, and then took us into a suburban area. It was a pleasant walk, and everything looked magical in the morning light and mist.

Before long the trail turned and began climbing steeply through a eucalyptus forest. The path was an old Roman road, with large, uneven stones. The world looked magical as we climbed, and about half way up the bells in the cathedral behind us began to ring.


When we reached the top of the hill the path leveled out for a while as a sort of gravel pathway. Then it began descending steeply as a very narrow, rocky, overgrown track. At the bottom it felt like we emerged from the wilderness onto a wide cobblestone road with a view of the red roofs of the city.

The walk into Porto was probably one of the nicest approaches to any city we've seen. We walked along a sidewalk into the outskirts, and when we followed a busy highway for a bit we had a wide, shaded sidewalk to enjoy. After that it was a straight, well marked run down a big street lined with apartment buildings, which eventually brought us to the bridge.

The tall, metal, arched bridge gave us a beautiful view over the city with its red roofs, brightly coloured buildings, gondola, and many river boats. There was a lot of activity, and the bridge was very full of people.

We decided to follow the yellow arrows to the cathedral, and stop in for our stamp. As we rounded the corner of the cathedral an English tour guide was just leading a large group of tourists past, and she stopped to comment on the pilgrims, pointing out the shells on our packs, and explaining that we were walking to Santiago.  It felt very strange to suddenly find ourselves being Exhibit A, although it isn't the first time this has happened.

There was a line to get tickets for the cathedral which we discovered we had to wait in to get our credentials stamped. When we joined the longish cue we were standing on a narrow stone staircase, and about 10 seconds later a group of about 70 people pushed past us to the front of the line. It wasn't overly pleasant, and turned out to be nothing more than bad timing. After visiting the tiny and crowded office, unceremoniously being given a stamp, and escaping out into the square again the whole place cleared out.

We were wondering if we could follow the Littoral way along the river to our accommodations, but weren't sure where to pick it up. We decided to ask at the Tourist  Information office, and had another interesting experience. There were no other tourists in there when we entered, but we had to get a paper number from a machine before we could ask our question. The answer was simply to go down to the river and follow it. With the twisting and turning streets, some of which were blocked by metal grates, this turned out to be more difficult than it sounds.

Because it is labour day, and a holiday in Portugal, accommodations for tonight and tomorrow were booked and extremely expensive. We managed to find a guest house on the river that was less than $200 CAD for two nights, but it is about 2 km from the cathedral. We walked over to it along the river, finding the sidewalks to be very busy, but enjoying the view.

Our accommodations turned out to be clean and functional, but to be honest, I think we've stayed in nicer albergues with better views. The room gets the job done I guess, but we find ourselves in a room wedged between two suites filled with very 'active couples'. Feeling a little overwhelmed, hot, and tired we decided to take it easy this afternoon, and head back to city center in the evening, when it should be cooler and might be less busy. We headed to the nearest laundromat to wash everything we own and Sean ended up helping two other Canadians, and a small community of other confused English speaking people trying to wash their things.

After doing laundry we returned our clothes to our lodgings and then headed out in search of some food. We headed back along the river until we came to an interesting place with a plant filled patio. Upon closer examination it turned out to be a covered market in an old Port cellar, which was filled with antiques, various shops, a bike rental store, and a bar and restaurant. We sat down at a long wooden table, surrounded by a jumble of antiques and the smell of wood smoke, and enjoyed an enormous beer and a very tasty tomato, lettuce, cheese, and pesto sandwich. It wasn't too expensive, and it was a very interesting spot.

Feeling somewhat refreshed we headed back to our room again to take care of some blogging and other paperwork for our upcoming hike across Canada while avoiding the worst of the afternoon and evening heat.

We ventured back out around six, just as the sun was setting and lighting up the city beyond the harbour. We wandered back downtown, found the cathedral again, and enjoyed a view over the city and down the river. It was still very full of tourists, and as we wandered we could hear the thumping beat of the party boats taking tourists along the river.

When we stopped for a bite to eat on our way home things failed to take a better turn once again. We sat down at an outdoor patio by the river, and each ordered a salad and some fries. The waiter first brought us some rather tasty olives, and a basket of bread with two rolls. It turned out one of the rolls had a bite taken out of it :( This didn't boost our confidence regarding the potentially recycled olives. When dinner arrived it consisted of one small salad and one even smaller plate of fries. It did little to revive our spirits. We went to bed hoping for a more positive, inspiring, and uplifting experience of Porto tomorrow.

Accommodations: By the River Guesthouse
Distance: 15.3 km

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