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Saturday, 23 May 2015

A Roman Masterpiece

Last nights stay in the Residencial was basic but clean and I had a great nights sleep. I left early this morning because I wanted to spend time in Conimbriga at the Roman site. The sun was shining as I walked along the small country roads and I had soon reached Zambujal with the, now being painted, church and was quickly into Fonte Coberta with an image of Santiago above its door. The route now took to a small path that made its way through the countryside and the stillness of the early morning was only enhanced by the sounds of nature. Through the tiny and still sleeping hamlet of Poco and I made the climb into a small wood before dropping steeply to a bridge over a stream and then up to the Roman site. I had arrived early and had a wait until it opened at ten. The complex was very impressive with museum,conference facilities, and restaurant and as I sat outside on the wall of an ornate fountain I met a South African couple who are also doing the walk. It soon turned into a pilgrims convention when we were joined by my American friends Fairlie and Dave. When it opened the ticket person made my day. I would have walked barefoot to have this experience. When I asked for a 65+ concession ticket he asked to see my passport. The Roman ruins were mind blowing and as I walked around the various houses and baths I was amazed at the standard of building and the technical expertise. These monuments to Roman achievement are still standing after centuries and yet because of bad design and inferior building techniques we are knocking down buildings built in the 1960s. I could and indeed wanted to stay longer in this magical environment but there were still 22K to be walked before I could find somewhere to stay. With a heavy heart I left Conimbriga and made my way along the small rural roads to the next village Orelhudo where I stopped for a coffee. If I'm honest I should admit to an incident along this part of the road. For days now I have seen hundreds of orange trees bowing down under the weight of their fruit and indeed the oranges are on the ground rotting. Well today I gave into temptation and plucked two oranges from a tree and they were the juiciest, sweetest oranges I have ever tasted. This could turn in to a major incident with Interpol looking for the Portuguese orange thief. The rest of the days walk was heavy going with several steep climbs and all was made worst by the feeling that Coimbra, my final destination, was getting further away instead of getting nearer. The final five kilometres in to the old part of the city, through the new town with its high rise modern buildings was a soul destroying and spiritless walk until I finally came to the very attractive and ornate Ponte de Santa Clara crossing over the mighty Mondego river to the old town. At this point I was doing a very good impression of Dustin Hoffman walking over the bridge in the Midnight Cowboy. The old city of Coimbra is very buitiful with its ornate buildings and my hotel, the Astoria, has been preserved in the grandure of the 1940s

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