hiking

Blue Sky Day

Saturday, September 30, 2017
Blue Sky in Grey County

While we were in Portugal, most days were blue sky days. Since we arrived home we have seen far more grey skies. From Thursday evening to the wee hours of this morning we had plenty of rain with fierce winds. People north and south of us lost power as tree limbs or trees downed hydro lines. We were spared. Today turned into a blue sky day.

This morning I drove to the Riverside Community Centre southwest of Meaford to participate in a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Trout Hollow Trail and to walk a few kilometers on the trail with Robert Burcher as our guide. Robert is a John Muir enthusiast who has been compiling data about Muir for a number of years. Robert gave a very interesting presentation to the Owen Sound Field Naturalists in the spring. That inspired me to participate today. Robert is a member of the Canadian Friends of John Muir. Muir was an environmentalist, botanist, writer, co-founder of the Sierra Club and known as the father of the National Parks system in the United States. Muir spent two years (1864-1866) in Ontario a year of that time working for the Trout family at their mill near Meaford.

Today’s hike took us to locations that have been identified and sign posted of the mill and cabin where Muir worked and lived as well as other historical features including the remains of a concrete dam that was used to create a 30 foot deep lake on the Bighead River. While we can still see where the dam was and stand in the Hollow where a lake once existed. It is hard to reconcile today’s peaceful pastoral scene where there once was a project that provided electricity for Meaford and a bridge where people used to walk for a Sunday outing.

I will have to visit the Meaford Museum the next time I come to hike Trout Hollow with my hiking buddies. There are 14 kilometers of trail of varying difficulty. We did not hike the whole system today.

Instead of going to the museum after our hike for cake and coffee, I drove into Meaford to admire the many scarecrows that are hanging about on the Main Street. At this time of year no visit to this area is complete without stopping at one of the roadside stands to buy apples. I brought a bag of sweet juicy Honey Crisps home to Brian who was waiting for our new fridge to arrive.

The fridge did not arrive until after I came home, but Brian made good use of his day cleaning the pond, doing laundry, getting rid of wasps and making our bed with fresh sheets. What a great husband!

We golfed nine this afternoon. A month’s absence did not improve our scores. We do not usually golf on a Saturday as it is usually busier; thus, slower. Brian had time for a nap while waiting to hit his ball off number five tee.

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Lagos to Lisbon

Lagos to Lisbon
Monday, September 25, 2017
1.5 km walking, 270 km train, across Lisbon by metro to Baixa Chiado, 1.5 km walking to Cais do Sodré to Five Stars 8 Apartment Building

We rose in the dark, before 7 AM, ate a clementine and yogourt and headed for the train station in the predawn empty streets of Lagos. Lovely! A 1.5 kilometre walk took us across the pedestrian bridge to the train station, a cafe de leite and a nata (custard tart…very flaky crust). The train left a few minutes early. We were in Tunes less than an hour later where we changed trains on the same platform for our first class car to Lisbon. The seats are more comfortable but no extra legroom. In fact I have less. I have a small table between me and a man. The table legs take up my foot room. The windows are only marginally cleaner. For better train travel it sure would be good to have clean windows. The first class carriage is quieter than second class and it has curtains for those who want to block the sun and the changing landscape. Had a cafe in the bar car.

We passed four golf courses along the coast but many more citrus groves, mostly oranges, I think, a few vineyards. We saw storks on nests; before this we only saw empty nests. A second nesting? Went through hilly country going north, dry meadowland, some clocks of sheep, cork and olive trees, endless blue sky.

Arrived in very busy beautiful Lisbon. Look out for trams, cars, tuktuks, people! Good sandwiches at La Padraria Portuguesa. Room for 2 more on the sofa bed in our big apartment that even has a dishwasher. Too bad we will not be here long.

My friend, Joan, asked me where I would choose to stay for a month in Portugal based on our travels here. Tough question. Part of my decision making would be based on the time of year and what I would want to do. We came to Portugal in September specifically for kayaking the Douro River. This trip was only offered in June or September, both are months when I do not like to leave home but we wanted to do the kayaking trip and we are really glad we did. Our guide, Jack, is 76 (you would not guess this!) and he plans on retiring this fall, unless he doesn’t, but Rui, his partner, will be continuing.

What we saw of the Douro was from the river, but if I were to pick a spot to locate on the Douro, I would probably choose something on the upper Douro, east of Regua. We walked across a
Grande Randonnee hiking trail. These trails come down from France. Something to research further.

You may have guessed, we like an active trip; so we would look for an area suited to hiking, kayaking, swimming, cycling. I am not, however, the cyclist our son is; so a lot of uphill would not be on my list unless I could switch to electric. It makes sense to pick a place that is central to a number of opportunities; so, much as I love water, a coastal location is not ideal.

Based on what we have seen, and preferring to travel in April, I would probably pick Zambujeira, on the Fisherman’s Trail since there are stunning views and beautiful beaches ( too cold for swimming but good for hiking). It is very accessible if you rent a car to hike more trails( the whole Rota Vicentina which includes side loops and the historical way) and see more great panoramas. There are rivers running to the coast suitable for kayaking. It’s not far from inland villages of historical significance or from the Algarve should you wish to see more tourists. It’s two and a half hours to Lisbon or three and a half hours to Seville by car. Buses will take longer. There is no train from there.

I would probably check information about Monchique which is inland from Zambujeira. I have not been there but it would be more central for the southwest, away from cool Atlantic winds, good hiking area. Evora is a larger town. We did not go there but we met other couples who were using it as a central place from which to explore southern Portugal.

Based on what a couple of Portuguese men have told us southeast Portugal on a lake is the best place to be. I am not sure what lake they had in mind but it appears that there is a reservoir and the Vale do Guadiana National Park which looks very interesting for hiking and water activities and is central for south Portugal and close to Spain (2.25 hours to Seville and another 1.75 hours to Gibraltar).

Zambujeira to Odeceixe

Zambujeira to Odeceixe
18.65 km in 6 hours 35 minutes
Stopped Time: 1 hour
193 metres of ascent, 213 metres of descent
Thursday September 21, 2017
Best to be a mountain goat!

We took more breaks today, partly because we were tired, partly because it was the best thing to do! What goes up, must come down. We did that over and over. There were at least three of those parts that it would have been preferable to be a mountain goat. The goat would not have needed to hang on to a rope while also using poles for one descent. The slippery scree and slick faced shist were challenging in both directions. I stopped three times in the first ten kilometres to change my socks because they were wet with sweat. I hoped to avoid more blisters but I now have one on each heel. I do not plan on wearing socks and shoes for the rest of our trip: five days left but no big hikes. My feet are decorated with blister bandaids.

We started our morning with a gift of fig jam from our Air BnB host, Lita. She also gave us a baggie of dried figs for our hike. Lita made sure Brian’s bag was picked up and went on to Odeceixe. Last night we rested playing dominoes on the sunny roof deck before going to watch the sunset then have a chicken dinner at a restaurant with a view of the ocean.

Zambujeira has two beautiful beaches at the foot of the town. Brian’s knees were too tired to do all those stair steps down to the beach and back. I was willing but I may not have had the energy to make it back up the steps. Zambujeira would have been a good place to spend two days just to have a day to enjoy the beaches.

Instead we stood at the sea wall high above the beach taking photos of sunset. I must have been concentrating on the sun more than Brian as he noticed the eight people relaxing in the nude on the beach. I did not. Today with only four kilometres left in our hike, we also stripped at riverside to enjoy the salty Atlantic as the tide continued up the Seixe River. It sure felt great! No photos of this event! We were not the only strippers here. It seemed the best thing for a hiker to do. Dressed again, we enjoyed the last four kilometres much more. I walked in the river for a few hundred metres before putting my socks and shoes back on.

Earlier in the day I had just been saying that maybe Goretex shoes were not the best for this hike since they hold the heat and we had not encountered water. Minutes later that changed. We crossed several muddy sections of trail where springs crossed the trail. We even had to walk in streams since there was so much undergrowth there was no way around them.

There was a beautiful waterfall that fell over a cliff to the beach. I had to wait for a couple making out on the beach to get out of the way for my photo.

We chatted with two German university students for the last four kilometres. The girls had taken seven days to do what we did in five but they had also been camping along the way and walking shorter distances. They observed that they did not walk as fast as us. I noted that I would not walk barefoot on hot pavement as they were doing. We have seen a couple of people walking barefoot in the sand. I considered doing so but there were too many places I would have needed to put my shoes back on.

I do not know how people walk long distances without poles. They certainly propel us along and are essential for the ascents and descents.

We passed a farm of exotic animals: American bison, ostriches, ibex. They were behind a seven foot tall fence. Not sure which animal they thought would leap over that. An electrical wire also kept them in. A sign said there was video surveillance. We did not see any but we had no plans to lead a bison on our hike.

A mechanical harvester was emptying a field so sweet potatoes with the help of several men ensuring that the produce fell properly into crates. It looked like very dusty work.

We had some pica pau with a beer and Radler as we entered Odeceixe. We have seen pica pau on the menu but had not tried it. We are glad we did. It is strips of pork cooked in a light gravy with a little cauliflower and carrots. We used every crumb of bread to soak up the gravy.

We are clean once again, rested in our new abode, Casa Morais, where our hosts only speak Portuguese. I am putting my studies of the language to work.

 

Almograve to Zambujeira

Almograve to Zambujeira
20.72 in 5 hours and 45 minutes
Full Sun, some ocean breeze
Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The days are blurring. I have to think about what day it is. Today is the last day of summer. I do not think the weather will change tomorrow. I think it was 25c today. When the trail took us to the cliff top we could feel the delightful ocean breeze. When we were led through large dunes and along inland gravel or dirt roads, our view and our breeze disappeared.

Today was a surprise. Our hotel manager, Manuel, had told us we would have seven kilometres of soft sand to walk in. Happily there may only have been four kilometres of it. Trudging uphill in soft sand is particularly exhausting. The first few kilometres were on boardwalk the. Hard packed dirt road above the ocean. Every few hundred metres we were invited by signs to participate in exercises on a fitness circuit. We did not feel compelled to do jumping jacks or torso twists or run on the spot. We just kept walking.

Last night in the restaurant we chatted with a German/English couple. They had lost their way yesterday and ended up taking a taxi to Almograve. They said they met two other couples who did the same. All of them missed the short signpost hiding in the bushes near the end of the sod farm. There the trail was best suited to wee folk but I had spied the sign and we made our way through without a machete. Today this couple was going to take a taxi to Cavaleiro, the midpoint and hike from there.

Our fresh sea bream was expertly grilled. Our restaurant host had us trying some drinks on the house: schnapps, moscatel and an almond liqueur. I liked the last best.

Today after two hours we had finished nearly ten kilometres and rewarded ourselves with cafe com leite, a ham and cheese pastry and a custard tart. At this first cafe on the trail there were a dozen hikers going the opposite way. Today we passed eight people in the first hour then we took turns passing and being passed by another couple as we took different breaks along the way.

I did it have much sand to dump today but I changed my socks twice. My socks get soaked with sweat. I have acquired a blister on each big toe. I have never had one in either location before. One of the perils of hiking.

we passed fields of sweet potatoes and tomatoes where pickers were filling crates. There were fields of butternut squash already harvested but corn still to be taken in.

Driscoll’s has acres of greenhouses here full of berry plants.

We saw a couple of sailboats more than a kilometre out in the ocean. The water looked pretty calm compared to previous days when we have seen kayakers fighting the waves a couple of hundred metres from shore. There was more rocky shoreline than sand beach with amazing folds to the rocks and layers of quartz shining between black layers of schist.

Shrubs with dark green sticky looking leaves bordered a good part of the trail. These three to four foot tall shrubs had finished blooming and sparkles in the sun. There was a pleasing fragrance from them but we did not dare touch their stickiness. In one place where we had to inch our way down a rocky slope we had a hard time avoiding these shrubs as they crowded us on both sides of the trail.

We saw a very distinctive sandy coloured residence with multiple buildings of domes and turrets. We surmised that it belonged to a drug lord or wealthy being who required a helicopter pad.

It was easy to find our lodging today at the first street we came to. We were lucky to catch our host Zita just before she went out. We have a two bedroom apartment with upstairs sunny deck. Our laundry is drying on the lines. Brian had his pack shipped today along with extras from mine. That gave his knees a rest. I carried my pack most of the day as it is small on Brian. I encouraged drinking water to lighten my load.

Time to explore Zambujeira and find some blister bandaids.

 

 

 

 

Milfontes to Almograve

Milfontes to Almograve
15.46 km in 4 hours 21 minutes
No wind, hot, sweaty

It is only 8 kilometres by road to Almograve but as with any hiking trail, it winds in and out, up and down to turn 8 into 15. We knocked off the first five kilometres in an hour and Brian had visions of being in Almograve by noon. The first part was on pavement and took us across the long bridge to the south side of the river Mira then through a farm gate where a sign warned us to respect the cattle. We skirted the edge of the brown pasture in the shade of cork and acacia trees. I felt sorry for the cattle browsing in the dirt.

A salty mist hung in the still air for half of our hike. This hid the Atlantic from us as did the fact that a good part of the trail drew us away from the cliff edge. We could hear the ocean but not see it.

We could have used a machete today to trim the trail for tall people. We brushed through and under acacias, bamboo and brambles. That was the shady part but otherwise we were on dunes with low vegetation. Brian was eyeing the juniper berries and thinking about making gin. I was only thinking about drinking a cold gin and tonic. It was very hot today with no breeze to cool us. I do not do heat very well.

We came upon a sod farm. The bright green was startling. It matched Brian’s shirt. We do not know where the sod is going. We have not seen much green grass. Perhaps golf courses in the Algarve? Brian told me to slow down so that the large sprinkler rotating to water the field would not get us wet. What was he thinking? I hurried ahead to catch a welcome shower.

We caught up and passed two other pairs of hikers. A mother/daughter duo had left Milfontes half an hour ahead of us. We passed them just before having to descend a steep hill via ladder. The one woman looked as if she wanted to approach the ladder a different way. I was afraid to watch her. I was glad she changed her mind and followed our procedure. We passed a young couple who had found the first good viewpoint. They were emptying their shoes.

I emptied my shoes after the first nine and a half kilometres. I had tried Brian’s flat footed walking method without success.

As we entered Almograve there was a bar/restaurant. That appeared to be where everyone stopped. The establishment across the roundabout was not collecting as many customers. We had a beer and cream of vegetable soup with bread. Vegetable soup is the standard soup of the day in Portugal. It is usually tasty although it varies in flavour and thickness but is always green.

We arrived a few hundred metres later at our hotel: NaturaMaris. The manager left the neighbouring restaurant to greet us. He asked if we ran here. We were earlier than most arrive from the trail. His hotel has 13 rooms. He has lived in this village all his life. A very nice man. He sat and chatted with us later as we had a drink. Yes, I scored a gin and tonic.

The manager was worried we would not fit in our room. It is the smallest room we have had and the first with twin beds but it is fine. There is a swimming pool and although the manager thought it might be cold, I thought it was awesome, especially after walking an extra 2.39 km after we checked in. This we did so that we could cut a bit off tomorrow’s 22 km.

It sounds as if fish is the best item to order on this evening’s menu. It is sold by the kilogram.

We were disappointed this morning when we went for breakfast at Pao Cafe. They were taking the day off for personal reasons. We were taken care of at another cafe-bar. The selection of pastries was not as great but I was satisfied with an enormous chocolate croissant while Brian had grilled cheese and ham. We both had a freshly squeezed orange juice made from 2 1/2 oranges each, our daily quota of vitamin C.

Vila Nova de Milfontes

Vila Nova de Milfontes
Hiking the Rota Vicentina or Fisherman’s Trail
20.65 km in 7 hours with pauses, just over six hours moving time

Yes, it takes six to seven hours to walk twenty kilometres when three quarters of it is in soft sand. We got quite the workout today. We did not feel the need to do any of the exercises on the exercise circuit we saw near the end of our hike. There was a light breeze, that kept us relatively comfortable in spite of the bright sun with 25 C. We had very little shade, just a few short pine trees in some parts of the dunes. Fortunately it was not as windy as the last two days or we may have been blown off the cliffs. We were told that it was best to walk this trail from north to south as the wind is from the north and would be in our backs. Good advice! I could empathize with anyone with vertigo. More than half this walk is not for people with vertigo.

Antigua claims it has 365 beaches, one for each day of the year. I think Portugal must have two year’s worth. Admittedly these beaches are colder than Antigua’s but beautiful and quite private. We saw plenty of campers parked in isolated places. It appears
You can camp anywhere as long as you do not want electricity and water.

We were on clifftops much of the way, looking down at beautiful coves and sandy beaches. I must qualify that the beaches in many coves are only there when the tide is low. At high tide water completely hides the sand. This morning we started walking at 8:45; so we had low tide for a couple of hours. We were able to walk on the wet hard packed sand for about a kilometre. I never thought I would say that I liked walking on pavement but I was relieved to be on pavement for the last two kilometres. I was also delighted to find an outdoor bar where I had a beer.

I emptied the sand out of my shoes just before going to the bar. I emptied my shoes three times along our hike. Each time I dumped half a cup of sand out of each shoe. Brian only removed a teaspoon of sand from his. He said that was because of the way he walks. I cannot explain this difference!

The dunes are home to a variety of succulents, one is most prevalent and quite red. Only a few were blooming. I identified thyme. We saw animal tracks but no animals: snake, rabbit, mouse, horses. I did see a black beetle and Brian spotted a lizard.

There were not many hikers: a total of seven going in the opposite direction and four that we spotted well ahead of us. We passed a Roman fort on an island and a sixteenth century fort on a cliff. A small ferry will take people to the island. Surfers swam on their boards more than they stood up.We saw some terrific spills from on high. We think red is a better colour than black for wetsuits. Those ‘seals’ look like good shark bait.

We have another beautiful accommodation although it was not easy to find. It was on the Main Street but at the opposite end from where we entered. It did not have a street number but said a bank was ‘in front of it’. There are four banks in Milfontes. Thy are not close together. The man in the Information Centre looked it up online for us. Note to self: always check the GPS location when we have internet before arriving in a place.

Hot shower and laundry done and we feel like new again. We even have an outdoor clothes line. The wind is up again; so, things should dry quickly. It took six findings to de-sand our socks…seven for mine!

We are in a private house where they have begun to rent out rooms with ensuite. Our bathroom has double sinks with lovely tile and large mirror, shower and bathtub as well as bidet and toilet. Our bedroom is large with double doors that open onto a patio and garden. We have yet to try out the hammock.

 

Quinta de Santa Cruz

Entre dos Rios to Melres
15 km in 3 hours
Lodging at Quinta de Santa Cruz above the Douro River

Brian and I slept in this morning. The rest of the group kayaked 8 kilometres in two hours before we met them at 11 AM. We needed five and a half hours of sleep. We took a break from eating last night, not intentionally. We were just eating soup when I needed air. I passed out before I got any. The next thing I knew was that Brian was holding my hand and Carlos was calling an ambulance and giving particulars of my situation. The ambulance arrived very quickly. In spite of my saying I was okay, my temperature was 35C and I was clammy. The ambulance attendant was very sweet even though she would only let me wet my lips when all I wanted a glass of water. I really was confident I did not need to go to the hospital but the ambulance driver was just as certain that I did, to protect himself as much as me. Had I known that the hospital was 20 kilometres away I would have been more insistent about not going. Rui accompanied us as interpreter. I could understand much of what was said but could not think how to respond appropriately in Portuguese. Before we got to the hospital Brian looked more in need of a doctor than I did. The winding hilly roads, many covered in cobblestones, bounced the boxy ambulance around causing motion sickness.

After five hours of waiting to see a doctor while watching Saturday night dramas unfold and broken limbs being set into casts, all we wanted to do was go to bed. It was finally sorted out that I had been given the wrong colour of wrist band and taken to the wrong waiting room; so, I had missed hearing my name being called to see a doctor. It was then assumed that I had left the hospital and did not need a doctor. My file was closed. I figured I had passed the test that I was fine after sitting for five hours; so, Carlos, Rui and Daniel, who had also been waiting drove us back to the monastery. The good news is that the ambulance ride did not cost us anything. The caring and support I received from the Kayak Douro Expedition team was outstanding. Brian said I had a history of fainting in church even though I have not done so for a long time and certainly not while eating.

Besides being tired, as everyone else is after kayaking, I feel great. I think I needed to drink more water.

Just in case anyone is wanting to buy an incredible property that boasts two million trees, the 95 year old owner of Convento de Alpendurada will entertain offers of ten million. Euros or dollars? Negotiable.

We had less wind today although we had gusts of ferocious wind that made us paddle vigorously. Brilliant sunshine with 25C and a light breeze felt good. We passed under two very high modern looking bridges at Entre dos Rios (where the Tameka River meets the Douro). There was a statue of a large golden angel beside one of the bridges. This was in memory of the people who died fifteen years ago when one of the bridge pillars collapsed. A bus and three cars plummeted into the Douro. Some bodies were never recovered. Some were found upriver in Spain.

The forested hills continue with more eucalyptus stands, cork trees, large oaks. After a couple of sandy beach stops we exited our kayaks onto a dock at Melres. We had to wait for our table of sixteen to be reset since we’re were more than an hour late arriving. We had the specialty of the riverside restaurant: patiniscas (round cod fritters), tomato rice and tomato salad. Our drink was served in cold pitchers: a blend of vinho verde and white wine.

When asked after lunch if we wanted to get back in our kayaks and paddle across to the sandy beach to practise rolling our kayaks or go to our hotel, one of our number responded for all of us, “That is like the choice between stabbing my knee with a fork or having an espresso. I’ll have the espresso.”

Our trio of vans and jeep with kayaks loaded took us back up river to a fabulous estate called Quinta de Santa Cruz. The original chapel was built in the 1700’s. The rest of the main house in which we have awesome rooms was built in 1888. The current owner is the grandson of the owner who restored this estate after it had been abandoned for twenty years. The grandfather established his business of extracting sand fro the river. This practise is no longer permitted. The grandson has some ships to sell. Brian and I hiked on winding roads higher up the hill and looked down on the house and river much farther below it. Groves of various hardwoods and fruit trees were planted in terraces.

Our bathroom with towels colour coordinated with the beautiful red and white tiles wins the prize for most striking decor.

Our cheerful family of kayakers is punch drunk on food, wine and the magic of the Douro. Still stuffed from lunch we sat down at an elegantly laid table at our Quinta. The owner and three male servers carefully laid plates of appetizers, then soup, followed by potatoes and cod baked with mayonnaise, then platters of lamb and beef with roasted potatoes and carrots, bowls of salad. Bowls of rice were largely ignored. Each course was whisked away while vinho verde and water were continuously poured. There were plates of bread on the table and a multigrain bun at each place but everyone was slowing down in food consumption. We kept apologizing that we were too full from lunch to consume all this awesome food. And then the desserts came out and we turned into ravenous wolves. Coconut cake, caramel apple crumble, chocolate mousse with almond cookie straws, bowls of melon and strawberries disappeared in the blink of an eye. Although there were still leftovers we took care of more desserts than main courses. Groaning as we rose from the table we are hoping to see the desserts show up on our breakfast buffet.

Ten Day Adventure Begins

6.4 km early day 4 hours
4 km guided walking tour with Viatarino ( V for short) from PortoWalkers 2 hrs 38 min

Breakfast was a long time ago. We grabbed three bite-sized stuffed tapas for the two of us with a bottle of water as we passed a vendor in a doorway while on our guided walk. We did not intend to go without lunch. It just happened that way. In between our two walks we met our kayaking leader and the other five couples who will be with us: John and Kim from Australia, Gary and Kim from Georgia then three couples who knew each other and planned this together: Peter and Julia from Texas, Eric and Laurie from Washington- Orcas Island, Mark and Mary Lou from Palo Alto. Our leader, Jack, has been living in Spain for forty-five years running English language schools and kayaking for the past twenty-five of those years. He has travelled in seventy countries. I think this will be an amazing adventure.

Porto and Gaia were crawling with people today, especially along the river. We were really fortunate to have seen so many air time trials on Friday before the crowds. We stayed higher up away from the river, checking out back streets and visiting the gardens of the Crystal Palace where we saw peacocks with their chicks and a book fair as well as trees, flowers, ponds and excellent views of Porto.

Jack arranged for our guided tour as part of our ten day package. Although Brian and I have walked many kilometres through Porto in the past few days, V added many colourful stories and gave us a sense of history of both Porto and Portugal. V is a 47 year old actor who also teaches acting and gives guided tours to supplement his artistic life.

With V we also walked the first kilometre of the Caminho that starts at the Se Cathedral and winds its way down narrow streets, some lined with plants and others strung with drying laundry.

We cannot sleep in tomorrow morning as we have to be at the Sao Bento train station by 8:45 AM, a fifteen minute walk from here. We definitely do not want to miss breakfast before our four hour train trip, on a train with no food.

We had less than a kilometre to walk to our evening restaurant. That was the best meal yet. We had very good meals the last two night’s at Rita Maria’s across the street from our IBIS Porto Centro Hotel, but tonight’s was excellent. After soaking up tasty olive oil with fresh baguette, we enjoyed delicious green pea soup. Our entree was pork tenderloin topped with roasted mushrooms, sitting on a medley of vegetables over mashed chestnut and potato. All was easily digested with good red wine followed by caramel flan then a glass of port. Brian fit in an espresso but I was completely satisfied.

A fine mist accompanied us back to our hotel where we discovered our eighth floor does not have power. Guess we will pack in the morning before breakfast. Packing by flashlight is not appealing.

The power just came back on. We will be able to charge our phones. Sleep awaits.

Matosinhos

Matosinhos
32 km 6 hours

To the sea, the beautiful sea! We made it to the Atlantic today to Matosinhos by metro then we walked the beach, both in the water and in the soft white sand. The latter was more difficult; so, we stayed in the water. A petite woman followed us into the water but jumped back, saying it was too cold. I replied, “Not if you are Canadian.” To which she said, “I am, from Montreal.” Of course many of my Canadian friends and relatives would not consider water that I go in to be swimmable. My only regret was that I did not take my bathing suit with me to the beach.

We chatted with the attendant in the tourist info centre. He told us that we could walk north to the best beach where there were buildings famous for their architecture: a sea swimming pool designed by Alvar de Siza. We had started in that direction but had already walked a couple of kilometres back from there; so, we did not return. That will have to wait for a second trip to Portugal. We did enjoy going south on the Matosinhos Beach. Those who did not want to bake in the sun had colourful beach tents, many of which were rented.

Walking in the water was joyful. We walked to the Fort St. Francis Xavier in which there was a small art show, all works by the same family. Really the most interesting pieces were orchestra musicians made from twisting forks. I should at least have taken a photo! The fort was also called the “cheese fort” but I do not know why.

The planes for the air show in Porto took off and landed from a runway near the beach. It became very windy around 3:30 PM and the planes stopped flying.

We got off the metro at an industrial shipping area then walked over a bridge and back then past the cruise ship docking to the beach. En route we passed a few blocks of restaurants with grills on the sidewalk where chefs were cooking flounder, sardines, cod, salmon, shrimp, squid and large green peppers. Sadly we were too full from breakfast at that point. A few hours later we returned there. But by then it was 4 PM and everyone was closing up to have a siesta before evening dining.

We were ready for our lunch then, but had to settle for a battered fish snack and ham and cheese brioche from a restaurant in front of our metro stop. Good, but not the fish meal we were wanting.

The return by metro became more crowded as we reached old Porto. When we got off the metro, officers were checking everyone’s tickets to see that they had been validated. So we learned what we were supposed to have done to buy a ticket. We thought it made sense to pay for two trip tickets because there were two of us but we were supposed to buy one ticket each. We each had to have our own card. Fortunately we were allowed to pass but we have now been instructed!

It was the perfect time for an ice cream cone: stracciatella for me, chocolate for Brian ( not dark enough this time). Back in our room, after a shower, we are resting with our feet up on the wall.

Gaia

Gaia
11.9 km 6 hours 52 minutes

I did not sleep from 2 to 6 in the morning but Brian slept right through until 10:15 AM which is when I awakened after my mid-night wakefulness. We cannot remember when we last slept in like that. Brian thought his watch was broken.

Today we decided to cross the Douro River to Gaia, home of many port cellars. With so many bridges crossing the river, you would not think this would be difficult. However today the planes were practicing for the weekend of air races; so no pedestrian traffic or vehicles, except for the metro. We spent a couple of hours watching the planes from various vantage points from the Porto side before asking how to get the metro to Gaia. Watching the planes was thrilling. I would not want to have been flying them. Cousin Mark would no doubt have liked that. There were big video screens along the river that sometimes showed the pilot’s face. One fellow looked terrified.

Although the crowds were bigger today, the local restaurants were expecting even more people. We had lunch at 4 PM in Gaia facing the planes as they turned up right in front of us. We were glad there were no engine failures. The sound from the planes stopped conversations.
We had seafood soup in a bread bowl. The bread was very tasty but they could have hollowed out much more of the bread to make room for more soup.

The police and security presence was phenomenal. No sightseeing boats were allowed in or crossing the river. It was surprising that no one stopped a dozen teenaged boys from diving and flipping off the sea wall near the bridge. They were having a great time.

We did lots of stairs to get down to the metro then to get down again on the Gaia side from the metro to the riverside. Walking along the river was much flatter than on the Porto side. We took the gondola back up to the bridge level and discovered the bridge was once again open to pedestrians; so, we sauntered back rather than walking farther to find the metro station.

We checked out a couple of Port caves but did not actually do any tasting. The best place offered three tastes if you bought a bottle at 25 euros a bottle. We did not feel like carrying a bottle with us; so, this will be for a different day.

We came back to the hotel to recharge our batteries: our cameras and us. Now we will head out for sunset, supper and Porto by night.