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Friday, 5 June 2015

Spain and the first Cafe con Leche

Last night we stayed in one of the best accommodations on the Portuguese Camino, Quinta das Leiras, where Anna our host couldn't be kind enough. The breakfast at 7am was by far the most extensive and indeed colourful one we have had and to share it in the company of Karen, Andrew and his father Peter was a very enjoyable start to the day. After breakfast we packed our bags but were forbidden to leave until we had hugs from Anna and photographs had to be taken. If yesterday's climbing was painful and exhausting then today made up for it by giving us a very pleasant and beautiful walk. The first early morning stretch was along country lanes that crossed several old Roman bridges and the early morning mists gave a very mystical appearance to the country scene unfolding before us. The only climb of the day was to the top of Sao Bento da Porta Alberta and after yesterday to call this a climb would be an exaggeration that even I would be unwilling to say. We did enjoy extensive views over the Minho valley and then had a delightful descent along woodland paths that were encased by pine, eucalyptus, holm oak and cork trees and the aromas were strong and refreshing. Our first coffee stop was sitting outside the cafe Central opposite the pilgrim plaque. Invigorated from our short rest we quickly made our way through more forest paths to the Ponte Romana da Pedreira where the well preserved Roman bridge crosses the fast flowing waters. Walking today was a joy as we relished a slight breeze that kept us fresh and our spirits up. After about another hour we came to another small village and this time the cafe and balcony in front of it was crowded with about a dozen other walkers. This was about the first time we have seen so many walkers at any one time and if Karen had been with us she would have started a rant about "tourist pilgrims". Apart from two elderly German ladies and a Portuguese couple the rest of them had no backpacks. They were wearing small, light, day packs which carried only their lunch and all looked as if they had just left a sports shop. Dressed in expensive, clean walking gear and most with wooden staffs they were unlike "us" real walkers with all our earthly belongings on our backs looking dusty and worn. At one point today, coming into the historic walled town of Valenca Mary's competitive spirit took over as she refused to be passed by several of the lightweight walkers and indeed quickened the pace that led to us passing several others. Initially our plan was to walk to the last town in Portugal, Valenca and cross over into Spain tomorrow but the walking was going so well we kept on going and walked over the long, very high International iron bridge in to Spain. This was a real landmark in our journey as we reached the Cathedral de Santa Maria in the ancient eccelastical town of Tui.

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