Day 9, Monday, April 17 Coimbra - Mealhada (25 km)
A breakfast buffet was included at Hotel Oslo where we stayed in Coimbra, so we started out with a good meal. Coimbra is the place where, they say, some pilgrims take the bus or train to Porto, because there were few places to stay, but we read that more facilities were opening up, so we weren't worried about continuing ahead on foot. On the contrary, we actually found more places open than on previous days. There was lots of road walking today, but, different from previous days, there were towns with mini-mercados and cafes that were actually open.
|Camino sign in municipality of Coimbra|
Not just today, but often, we passed thru many small hamlets with many beautiful and neatly landscaped homes, but it always seemed like no one was there. We hardly ever saw anyone when we walked thru these hamlets and there wouldn't be cafes or markets open that serviced these areas. We wondered and guessed reasons why this was. It wouldn't be until our last day in Portugal that we would find out the most likely reason.
Another interesting thing we noticed in the small towns was that there were often loud speakers attached to the roof of the town's church or chapel. We supposed that it was a convenient way for local announcements, or maybe sermons (?), to be broadcast to the entire community, but just a guess.
a while we had to walk on a major highway, which was extremely dangerous. For a bit we saw no signs and were worried
that we were off track, but then we saw an arrow as we reached Santa
Luzia. There we saw the restaurant,
Manuel Julio, mentioned in our guidebook, and decided to stop for a full lunch,
since we didn't know what the rest of the day would bring. Behind the restaurant, according to the
guidebook, we would find a new woodland path that we could use instead of
walking on the highway. So we went into
the woods on what turned out to be a wide dirt road thru a eucalyptus forest,
then onto a regular road which would lead us to the town of Mala. We were looking forward to stopping at a
pastry shop there, but found it closed.
Either a wedding or a funeral was going on in the church. We figured that the owner of the pastry shop,
plus everyone else in the town was in the church.
|Note the loud speaker attached to the roof of the chape|
After Mala, it seemed like the longest walk ever to get to Mealhada. We sweat lots and drank so much water. My back began to hurt. My worst day ever. I was ready to collapse by the time we finally reached a cafe (it was called Cafe Senor in the guidebook, but has a new name now, which I can't remember) by a park outside of Mealhada. I sat with my head down on my lap and finally perked up with cold water and rest. There a family arrived at the same time. They were celebrating something with a couple bottles of champagne and the kids were running everywhere, even climbing on my backpack, using it as a stepstool to climb thru a low open window. We relaxed and enjoyed a few moments laughing with the family and taking photos before continuing on.
|Enjoying a family gathering at a cafe near Mealhada|
Around the corner from the park we came to a roundabout full of traffic. In the center of the rotunda was a statue of the god, Bacchus, sitting on top of a wine barrel, as a welcome to Mealhada, center of the local Bairrada wine region.
I was not feeling well, we decided to stay in a regular hotel, a Best Western
called Tres Pinhieros, which turned out to be 3 km beyond Mealhada. It wasn't easy to find and we got lost for a
while, so, from the cafe, it took at least another hour to get there. It was 6 pm by the time we arrived. After our showers, we briefly went out to
look for a restaurant or cafe, but it didn't seem like there was anything close
by in either direction and the evening was windy and cool. Instead we sat in the hotel lobby and had a
glass of wine and peanuts while we waited for the restaurant to open. Our waitress there was so kind. It turned out to be an enjoyable
evening. We even were able to try white
and red versions of the local wine, Bairrada, which we had not heard of until
today. The waitress taught us how to
say, 'very good'...'muto bene'...words that we could use frequently from now
|Busy roundabout in Mealhada with statue of Bacchus atop a wine barrel|
|Trying the local red and white Barriada wine from Mealhada|