“Pain is just a state of mind. Think nice thoughts and you won’t even notice it disappear “ The hotel […]

“Pain is just a state of mind. Think nice thoughts and you won’t even notice it disappear “

The hotel we stayed in last night wasn’t the nicest (it was ok), but this morning’s breakfast was outstandingly good. To be fair, I didn’t deviate much from my usual simple choices, but Carolyn certainly had a field day, sampling all manner of cheeses, tomatoes, quince, eggs and fruit. I had corn flakes, banana, croissants and jam, if you’re interested.

It’s been the most demanding day so far in terms of the terrain, with fairly steep uphill sections through very picturesque forests that were pretty treacherous underfoot. Lots of loose boulders and stones meant that your foot often slid away from you, hardly ideal for blistered bits. Nonetheless, we laugh at such trifling hazards! Hah! (ok, maybe one or two “Ow! This is really sore! This is a rubbish section!” may have slipped into the comments bank).

Despite all the tricky uphill sections and unforgiving boulder strewn paths, we fetched up in Pecene at 3.15 pm this afternoon. Our accommodation is a very attractive hotel called Casa da Capela, which sits within its grounds of cobbled walkways, manicured grass and various tree types (no two appear to be the same). It’s quite a setting. Carolyn’s away for a dip in the pool. I’m trying to keep my feet dry as I write this. The young lady who appears to run the place has just handed me a chilled bottle of Sagres beer. This is most agreeable after a hot day on foot.

You hear so much about the desperate state of the Portuguese economy that you almost sub consciously expect to be confronted on your travels by evidence of the downturn in the country’s fortunes. What we have actually witnessed everywhere since our arrival is a vibrant, handsome city (Porto), and a collection of beautiful towns and villages, all of them immaculately tended, devoid of any indication of economic hardship. You are particularly struck by the houses. No two, aside from the terracotta roofs, ever look the same; many are absolutely magnificent, while the majority are simply immaculate. I can only assume that this part of northern Portugal contains much of the country’s wealth. It’s very rural, as you’d expect, and we’re repeatedly told that this is the real Portugal – the Algarve is simply a creation to keep the Brits happy. Either way, without having any idea about the vagaries of the Portuguese economy, this part of the country appears to be doing very nicely.

The people too, have a very relaxed outlook on life. They are almost unfailingly helpful, and, despite their general lack of English, pleasantly amused by our default attempts to communicate via rubbish Spanish. It’s a lovely part of the world, and it’s fantastic to get the opportunity to see these smaller, previously unheard of places. It was exactly the same going across Spain’s northern regions last year, and that’s the beauty of the Camino walks!

One small gripe, however (“Yes, yes, with you there’s always something”, I hear you say). There are parts of the walk where you have no choice but to walk along busy roads. I may have mentioned earlier that the normally patient, attentive Portuguese locals appear to undergo a disturbing metamorphosis as soon as they get behind the wheel of a car. There’s none of this “slowing down to make sure I don’t hit a weary pilgrim struggling along the road” nonsense, as they live out their fantasies of taking part in the Wacky Races. Even Carolyn has been taken aback by their aggression (no little irony there) as we dive into the umpteenth hedge/ditch before getting back to our feet, dusting ourselves down and calling a halt to our highly imaginative array of witty, good natured expletives. Apart from that, they’re lovely people, I mean, we’ve still got all our limbs, so what’s the big deal?

Dinner is at 6.30 pm this evening. We’ve both gone for the fish – hake, to be exact. I expect it to be delicious. I shall now exit this bright sunshine and head for the shower, after which I’ll go looking for the beer lady. It is a holiday after all. At least I think it is.

Short walk to Tui tomorrow. That will represent the end of stage one. You blink and it’s almost finished !

Today’s album track is “The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac. As we all know, for years it was the music that introduced the BBC’s grand prix coverage. At certain points today it felt like we’d strayed onto the track at Silverstone. Still intact, though!