Sunday, October 30, 2016

October 30, 2016: Day 2: Povoa da Iria to Vila Franca da Xira

Church on the hill of Alhandra

Port of Alhandra
This life, which had been the tomb of his virtue and of his honour, is but a walking shadow; a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. 

William Shakespeare

Before photo!
Walking is a great thing. I remember reading the perspective article of one page length that at least used to be the conclusion of Backpacker magazine. A single sheet of philosophy about the backpacking life circa 1992. The back page said' "It's a small world after all....until you walk to the next town."  Having done it many times, you see few people walking from downtown to Bearden or to Seymour or Turkey Creek. We are an "automobile" society who have abandoned our feet for comfort and probably much more so for convenience and the salvation of time. I know. I do it myself and very often. But walking town to town is an existential experience in some ways. You are subject to the weather, the conditions of the roads, the people (and animals) and towns you meet along the way.  We should sometimes be subjected to the unknown , the intangible and the serendipitous that riding in a car cannot bring.

And so we began today where we left front of River Tejo which is separated in varying small degrees from the Atlantic Ocean. A tidal marsh full of wonder.
We started our walk at Parque Dos Pecadores.. the two fisherman. In the distance faintly is the Vasco de Gama bridge.

The city of Povoa de Iria is a "Farragut" of Lisbon, a bedroom community. Probably less affluent than our hometown version, Povoa has many high rise apartments. Paul suspects EU money created this beautiful green space between town and the ocean. We saw many families, bikers, runners and walkers on the miles-long boardwalk next to Ribera Tejo

This photo is to try to capture all the birds above the trees. We saw THOUSANDS of them migrating. We never could tell what species. 

Abandoned mall on the oceanfront. Every store closed and guarded by machine gun carrying militia. 
We started the day walking down the River Tejo. This river is the longest in Portugal and Spain. It empties into the Atlantic Ocean after spanning both countries.  This is the River from which boats sailed during the age of discovery---da Gama,  Columbus. Now it is predominantly  cargo ships peppered with sail boats and fishermen. 

Paul at the beginnings of the Parque Dos Pescadores
The city of Povoa da Iria has a beautiful and expansive greenway along the river with a long boardwalk.  It was so great to see all the migrating birds even though we couldn't tell what they were. They streamed through the sky in the thousands weaving a pathway above the treeline and along the river.  There are apparently about 50 bird species winging their way through the region this month...not counting Delta and Lufthansa. A pleasure to see. We also saw flamencos. These were at a distance and definitely NOT pink, but nonetheless beautiful and a wonderful surprise. 
White flamencos in the distance dancing for shells
We enjoyed this walk which we believe to have been approximately 3 miles. We recommend it to anyone visiting Lisbon. Take the train to Povoa de Iria and you can ride back from the station in Alverca.  We stopped there for a water break at a grocery store. Not sexy, but it did the trick. The next  section of the Camino Santiago we definitely recommend finding a way around...easily done by train. Here we walked along a fairly trafficked road with no sidewalk. The cars were a foot or two away and it was mildly to moderately unnerving dependent on who was coming toward you and what you can see. Unfortunately, this part of the camino is rarely used and there aren't many peregrinos on it, so motivation is minimal in economically challenged region to provide greater safety for walkers. 
But we made it okay, praisethelordandpassthemashedpotatoes.  

From this point we had a couple of really nice treats. 1. Another boardwalk or paved walkway along the river/seaside and 2. An amazing restaurant for lunch with a river view. 

Gorgeous walkways above the marshes

morning glories greet us daily

The view from our lunch stop. Can't beat that!

A lunch of salad greens, fried local cheese on apple slices and pumpkin preserves. This was SERIOUSLY NY city food on a riverside in rural Portugal.  The server lived in NYC for a year

Cormorant swimming

Paul with bamboo

Our waiter lived a year in Spring Valley , NY. We recommend Voltar ao Cais...return to the harbor. Lotsa seafood, great culinary experience in the middle of nowhere Portugal (Okay it was in Alhandra, but you've never heard of it, right?)

After walking in close proximity to speeding cars from Alverca to Alhandra, this is just what we needed: Lovely scenery and a world class luncheon.

The remainder of our 10 mile journey for today to Vila Franca da Xira was uneventful and a scenic. We continued a path along Rio Tejo (okay we had to climb over a bridge and a fence to keep on the trail, but what of it?) into our destination for the night. The riverwalk was great and about every kilometer or so was a bench painted with graffiti. Here is an example:

The bullring in Vila Franca and the back of the bench painted of bullring on a camera phone. 

We were able to complete our walk today in under 4 hours instead of the 6-7 of yesterday. We checked into our basic but good hotel of Flora. After a shower and a nap, we proceeded to our restaurant of the evening, Al Forno. We read the served beef on swords there. Why not? It's not like there's that many beef on swords in my life.

Lovely very local River Tejo wine.  Tasted like pinot noir but cannot name the grape,

The restaurant. The walls were covered with photos of bullfighting

The wine cellar.

Paul with beef on a sword. That is about 6 petit filets of serve two in Portugal

Creme catalan

The late Sunday streets of Vila Franca da Xira

What we deciphered en route here on the riverfront walk and especially at the restaurant is that this town STILL has bullfighting. Our lovely waiter told us they do NOT kill the bull and invited us to return.. We think we might do just that. We showed so much interest in their local matador tradition that he sent us home with 3 local books about it. We tried to refuse repeatedly but he kept insisting. This town is so lovely and quiet, on the RIVER TEJO  and the ocean. It has artisans, restaurants and bulls where bulls are not sacrificed. What else do you need?

Bullfights have so much color. Not just the matador but also the bull, the arena, and the public. It's all very festive. 

Fernando Botero

Paul's Ponderings:  Another lovely day out walking in Portugal!   It's quite a variety of experiences.   Not to wax philosophical, but we had some fairly wretched walking on roads for a mile or so in heavy traffic, coupled with incredible rural scenes.   If the camino is supposed to be a spiritual journey of a sort, then we had the stress and the beauty that life provides, all encapsulated in a day's walk in Portugal.  

We had a weird experience after lunch when we ran into a closure on the path.  As a result, we hiked around thru a dirt field, climbed around a flimsy fence, then pulled ourselves up onto the bridge from the other side, while surrounded by a few teenage boys doing the same thing.   After a short walk on a path that was paved but being reworked, we ran into a guy with a skateboard that he was carrying.  No doubt appearing to be clueless Americans to him, he asked us "where are you going and do you know there's another fence ahead that you can't get around?".  He also commented "I'm pretty skinny but you may not be able to squeeze thru".   Fair enough.   When we got there we found a fence on the path with a bike rack stuck in the water to complete the roadblock.   Being the enterprising folks we are, we climbed out on the bike rack over the water and then swung over it and clambered back up on the other side.   Not a wet foot in process.  A bit later, we saw a guy on a fancy bike wearing spandex and he said "where did you come from -- isn't the road blocked?".   Again, no doubt we appeared to be walking the camino but he couldn't figure how we got past the blockage.   We discussed this a bit and he went on his way, so we assume he and his bike went over it, which is no mean feat.   Our conversation included the words "we are not triathletes".   Interesting day.  

Thankfully we arrived in one piece and concluded with a great meal, local wine, and a sword full of meat!   

A random door in Vila Franca da Xira

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