I need to explain the asterisk I posted beside the kilometres listed yesterday and today. I wanted the distance between places to be accurate, especially for anyone reading this and planning their own Camino, but we did not walk the entire way. Yesterday we took a cab from Agueda to Albergaria a Velha and walked only the last 20kms into Oliveira. Today we walked the first 10kms to São João and, as you will read, finished the rest by bus. There is every likelihood that that asterisk will appear again and again. Tendinitis! So now on to today's blog.
ThIs morning the streets of Oliveira de Azeméis were still being set back to normal as Dayton and I left at 7:30am after a really good and big breakfast. For the past year my breakfast, after our daily early morning workout, has consisted of a protein shake and some fruit. Not here. This morning, despite no workout, I indulged in a huge fresh Portuguese bun filled with tomatoes and cheese. I don't think this country is tolerant of gluten intolerance.
Dayton and I walked a couple of hours towards and into São João da Madeira where we met up with Eman and John. Together we went to the bus station to catch a bus into Porto. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, the route into Porto is uninspired and, with mostly road walking beside busy highways, unrewarding. We chose to avoid it. It was soon obvious that we were not the only ones who made this choice. We met more pilgrims at the bus station than we have along the entire Camino Portuguese so far. It appears that everyone has formed the same opinion about this stage of the Camino.
In Porto we found our hotel and, because check in was not until mid afternoon and no exceptions, we left our packs and went out to tour this city. Porto is a huge city. It is a sprawling city, old, busy, touristy, weathered and well worn, and expensive ( at least in comparison to where we have been in the past two weeks). We lunched at the restaurant on the first floor of our hotel, wandered the streets, visited one of the main cathedrals, and then walked down 238 steps winding through little alley streets to the river. We walked out onto this massive incredibly high multi-levelled bridge spanning the River Douro. The waterside was lined with restaurant after restaurant and there were old fashioned boats and river cruise boats moored at dockside. Dayton and I were seriously and longingly looking at those river cruise boats. We then climbed back up to the old town taking a different path of again over 200 steps. A glass of wine doesn't come easy here. Somehow we were back where we started our day in Porto. A quick stop at a Farmacia for anti-inflammatory cream and drugs for Achilles tendinitis (guess who) and then we went back to our hotel which is a very quaint, tall old building overlooking a wide boulevard and city square. The hotel elevator only goes from floors two to five and we are on the sixth floor. Interesting. A very clean room but super small. This is a very particular hotel. If you wash your clothes in their rooms, you get charged an extra half day's room rate.
After a quick shower we headed out again to meet Eman and John for dinner. We all wandered and wove our way in, around and down more twisty cobblestone streets until we were once again back at the waterside and the rows of restaurants. By chance, we ended up choosing one that also featured traditional Portuguese Fado music. As we were seated the waiter tried to explain to us about Fado music and something about silence. Hungry, we just nodded our heads and sat down, eager to eat. We were immediately served a complimentary Port (it is called Porto for a reason) and settled in to dine. When the Fado music started, two guitarist and a singer, it finally clicked what the server had been tellling us. Apparently this haunting melancholy style of music must be sung to a silent, respectful audience as the chatty dinner audience was informed, reminded and reprimanded more than a few times.
A bedtime cup of tea and a capuchinno finished off the evening. A good day.
John and Eman