The Old Way through the Modern City
03 September 2016
Shelley and I rounded off yesterday with a superb meal of varied tapas. We found a wonderful little restaurant tucked away in a small vaulted cellar close to our little pensión beside the Torre dos Clérigos church title photo).
Trásca, in Rua da Trás, has a great atmosphere, great food and a great guy with a kind attItude serves you there. No doubt you will meet Paulo and enjoy his quiet, unassuming, multi-lingual service. A really nice guy with a colourful life-story. (Sorry – no website to link to, but they are on Facebook).
Today was a very hot day under a cloudless sky, and a journey of 25km, spent 100% of the time on roads and sidewalks. Everyone had told us to take the modern variation of the coastal route out of Porto. I can see why, but we welcome tradition. We followed the route which I had carefully researched and which took us along the old pilgrim path.
It is true that it stays on the streets and roads of Porto, but it is easy to follow and passes some beautiful old churches and chapels.
Although modernised over the centuries, the straightness gives a clue to their antiquity as an old Roman arterial road connecting Porto to the north. I had been told it was difficult to follow the route, but in fact the yellow arrows were prolific – after the first kilometre.
It took us four hours to reach fields. However these were not wide, open pastures of wheat or grazing. They were very old walled boundaries containing almost 100% fields of maize. Occasionally we could smell, but not see, cattle. The reason we later realised was that the cattle are all kept indoors and fed on the corn. I guess it is efficient for dairy and beef, but it seems sad that they do not graze in the fields.
Outside of Porto, the Way follows cobbled roads. Many cobbled roads. All the roads after Maia, until we reached the N306, were cobbled. The extent of the cobbles is incredible when one considers that each of the millions and millions of stones has been laid by hand. It has been a colossal undertaking of probably millions of man-hours. Now they must be a nightmare on rubber tyres and for the authorities to maintain. Nevertheless, though uneven, there were few holes.
Care is needed on these roads to dodge the often fast vehicles. Sidewalks, where they exist at all, are narrow and in short sections.
The ‘arrowed’ route took in some interesting small diversions when compared to my carefully researched route of the original Camino Português. These were all outside of Porto. Our lodgings at the excellent Casa Mindela was on my mapped route, but fresh arrows 300m before the farm pointed pilgrims away into another village. The reason it seems is that the local council, which has the responsibility for the Camino signs, will accept petitions by small hospitality businesses to divert walkers and cyclists to said businesses. The old arrows are usually encountered once again a little afterwards, and then meet up with the diverted route. “All paths lead to Santiago” might be the truth in one phrase, but clearly money can influence even an old traditional route.
I cannot speak too highly of Casa Mindela and our host, Helena. She welcomes pilgrims to her delightful home/farm. Our clothes were washed for us. She does not have a licence to cook evening meals for guests, but will order from a local restaurant and bring it to the farmhouse. A truly great host.
Tomorrow, Barcelos – and hopefully – some footpaths through fields and forests.
Also, we saw just one other pilgrim in the distance, but at last, I am no longer alone on this path as Shelley is with me. Her company adds a spring to my step…