Our host in Alvaiazere, Carlos tells us that by next year he hopes to have opened a restaurant below the albergue. He is extremely kind and it would be great if he was supported in his venture. The albergue, which is easy to find alongside the church, has been opened in a property that was a home and is a series of sleeping rooms with a shower room and a kitchen. Our room was twin bedded and very comfortable, if a little dated. I guess they will update as finance allows, but I would commend using this albergue in order to support his efforts.
We left the rather uninteresting town of Alvaiazere at about 6:45 am and as usual at this time, the place was deserted. We set off on a minor road and after a couple of km’s we were on a quiet path. There was heavy cloud and again a cool gusty wind, and these conditions remained until about 11 am, when the sun broke through and warmed us up.
I am finding my system of wearing just the sleeves from my zip-off fleece tucked into my T-shirt sleeves is working well for me again this year. I don’t want to wear a full jacket as I get too hot when walking, but with just the sleeves I can pull them up and down (just like the tart’s knickers!) until it is time to dispense with them for the day. Then if I need some warmth in the evening, I zip the sleeves back in and I have a cosy jacket.
Today has been totally fabulous. The walking has been almost entirely on beautiful countryside and forest paths, and the roads that we have walked on have been pretty much traffic free (I guess because it is Sunday) with lots of beautiful flowers and mostly through oak woods, which is so much nicer than eucalyptus. There were small farms amongst the trees with olive groves and vineyards
To make it even more special we stopped for a hot drink after 14 km at Ansião, where we found cake heaven on the corner of the main square. We were concerned that any cafés might be closed on a Sunday morning, but this place (Pasteleria Diogo) was buzzing. I ordered four, yes four, pastries, but I hasten to add that they were tiny, and when I finished them I ordered four more, yes, you read that correctly – four more, exactly the same selection as previously – two extra thin Florentines made of cornflakes, flaked almonds and bound with sticky toffee stuff, and two cherry topped coconut delights. I can assure you that all four only added up to the equivalent of one pastel de nata (honestly – you have to believe me, I am a pilgrim!). To save arguing with the lovely young woman behind the counter I even ordered a coffee with plenty of milk and almost enjoyed it.
We sat outside in the square watching the children from the town entering the church for Sunday school, and it was one of those perfect moments.
We eventually tore ourselves away from our haven of sweetness and set off again on even more delightful paths. The signage has been brilliant today, even a very short sighted person without specs would have found it difficult to get lost on this section. I took so many photos of the paths and flowers that I don’t know where to start with uploading.
However, I have vowed to never again coupie down (coupie down is apparently West Country slang for crouching – and I always thought it was best queen’s english!) to take a photo of a ground level plant after having a rather ungainly experience when attempting to get back up. It’s hard enough to get up from such a position even when unencumbered by an 8 kilo pack. I attempted to use my poles to give me some leverage, but alas I was doomed and suddenly found myself in the middle of the track, on my back with my arms and legs flailing helplessly in the air. I felt like an upturned turtle trying to right itself. The path was rough gravel and I didn’t want to hurt my hands in my ridiculous manoeuvring, so put my poles on the ground alongside me and rested my hands on them to get the necessary leverage – which was quite considerable. Luckily Elly was too far behind me to catch any of this on camera, but it will stay fresh in my mind for some time to come!
The rest of the walk was just as delightful and we received a few ‘bom viajes’ from locals and even some ‘bom caminhos’ from some cyclists. After a short sit down on a strategically placed rock, we sauntered the last 5 km into Alvorge. We were looking for the Cafe da Sua Vida where we were instructed we could ask for a key to the church-run albergue. For your information, the cafe is situated to your right immediately you enter the town square. We managed not to see it and the next thing we knew, a man was running after us asking if we wanted a carimbo for our credentials, whereby we followed him back to the cafe. His wife speaks good English and after establishing that we wanted to stay at the albergue, she phoned the key holder who said she would be about 30 minutes. In the time we were waiting (and drinking a glass or two of wine) – about an hour, the cafe had gone from empty to full of smiling villagers.
The owners’ 6 year old daughter Leonor showed us the guest book which was full of appreciative comments and when the key lady turned up Vitor and I piled into her car to be driven the couple of hundred metres to the albergue and given a guided tour. The accommodation is in the basement of the church hall which is an imposing building behind the pretty church. There are 8 beds, two showers and a loo, with use of kitchen facilities on an upper floor. I was handed the key and asked to leave it on the table when we left.
Then Vitor and I walked back to the cafe during which time I was given an excellent guided tour of the pretty and very peaceful town.
Everything here seems delightful and we have ordered dinner in the cafe for 7pm. We are very lucky to be so well cared for by such charming and friendly people. Thank you to the residents of Alvorge!