Friday, May 12, 2023

Day 5 - 11 May - Esposende to Viana do Castelo

As The Rembrandts famously sang:

So no one told you walking fifteen miles each dayCalls for some discipline whilst you are on the wayYou can’t be always stuck in second gearHead down and best foot forward, timefor only one beer

Day 5 on our Portuguese Camino and it has been the best day so far. The Coastal Route, which we have been following, has moved inland a little. Not by much. Maybe no more than a mile or so but rather than closely tracking the coastline, the route now sees us at a modestly higher altitude passing through villages, taking country paths and hill routes through forests, all of which with the Atlantic ocean still relatively close and visible to our left. Whilst I have loved walking the spectacular coastline over the previous three days, today felt more like the Camino we fell in love with last year. There remains, however, one big difference.

The song above is of course best known for being the theme song for American sitcom Friends. Mrs C and I are lucky enough to be walking this Camino with our good friends Mick and Andrea but, as a generalisation, it is noticeable that this Camino hasn’t thus far felt the same as last year in terms of camaraderie. That’s not to say that people aren’t friendly, because they are, and there are plenty of Bom Caminho’s flying about but it’s still noticeably different. 

We hit the road at eight o’clock this morning and stopped at the supermarket in the next town of Marinhas for coffee and a croissant. We took opportunity also to buy in some provisions for later in the day as our planned fifteen miles included a long stretch without the prospect of any refreshment stops. We stopped, around eleven o’clock, to consume said provisions whilst sat outside the picturesque church of Santiago de Castelo do Neiva IX at the highest point of the day, around 140m above sea level. It doesn’t sound much but the climb reminded me why I used to prefer driving everywhere. 

Our team walking discipline was good today. Can you believe that it was another two hours before the first beer of the day passed my lips? I’m not sure if this means I’m hardening up or going soft. Nonetheless, the Leffe Blond I enjoyed at Café/Pastelaria S.Sebastião in Chafé was not only welcome but very tasty and provided the filip needed for the final five miles. A final five miles, I might add, which included a long uphill slog before we peaked and enjoyed the views down to the Rio Lima and across which lay the city of Viana do Castelo, our destination for the night.

We descended from this high point and crossed the river over the Ponte Eiffel, a six hundred metre long bridge designed by some guy who also had a hand in a big tower in Paris.

Tonight we are staying in - don’t laugh - a youth hostel. To be honest we weren’t sure if they would let us in but they did and our private apartment ensures that we should remain well out of sight of the younger clientele.

Viana is a beautiful city and as the boys were ready before the girls, Mick and I formed the advance guard and duly set out on our important reconnaissance mission. We first of all reconnoitred bar La Familiar, just up from the cathedral, and then carried on with this important work at bar Boa Vista where the girls then joined us. Then it was on to Ribeiro's Brewers where they had a great selection of craft and bottled beers but at silly prices so we only had the one there. We were getting hungry now so we found a little restaurant which turned out to be a great little find and where, to wash down the meal, I treated myself to two bottles of Sagres Bohemia Original, a 6.2% ruby beer.

Whilst at bar La Familiar and later at Ribeiro's Brewers, we got talking to Reece and Sabrina from California. Or I thought it was Reece until he told me he was Dennis Beech from California. I was a bit confused but I had got a few beers inside me by now. They have been on the road for days if not weeks, having started their Portuguese Camino in Lisbon. To be honest, I haven’t heard good things about the Lisbon to Porto route and Dennis (or Reece?) confirmed “it sucks”. For them, the scenery and route is much more enjoyable from Porto onwards but they are also missing the camaraderie and fellowship previously enjoyed on the main Camino Frances route. Fortunately, we have Mick and Andrea to keep us amused/ occupied/ sane/ insane (delete as appropriate). At least they now have four friends on Camino (i.e. us) which is one more than we have managed as we have only made friends with them and Bruce. Anyway, it transpired that it was definitely Reece and Sabrina we were talking to. 

They live in Venice Beach, California.  

Hopefully our planned twelve miles tomorrow should mean slightly less discipline required than today.

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