14 May 2014
I reported yesterday that our room was in a great situation with views out over the river and the lively street below. I think I also mentioned that Coimbra is a university town, the students’ attire is very eye-catching and smart, including a long black cloak and most of them were wearing a business type black suit under the gown.
All along the camino thus far we have passed through towns either just after or just before a special event was taking place – bull fighting, fiestas – you name it and we have missed it! But it was just our luck to arrive in Coimbra at the very time of an annual event – the student festival. Alarm bells should have been ringing as we returned to the hostel last night and we saw that pop-up bars had been erected all along the street below our balcony, but all was calm at that point. But oh, how that was to change! By the time I had sent my latest post into the ether (having been sitting at the top of the stairs for an hour as there wasn’t a good internet reception in our room) it was apparent that we were not about to have a peaceful night.
It started with raucous voices drifting up together with loud music from various venues, and continued to include an ear battering of whatever you call music that young people like, from an organised stage event just across the river, but may just as well have been in our room. The music finished at about 6:30 this morning, just as we were getting up but there then ensued a steady stream of very drunken students kicking bottles around and shouting out. In the event, we were walking alongside the dregs of the tide as we left the hostel at the start of today’s walk.
And that’s the most exciting thing that happened today. I found today’s walk very uninspiring, although Elly thought just the opposite. Our heads were obviously in very different places, and we actually hardly walked together at all today. Elly is a bit grumpy in the morning if she doesn’t get a fix of breakfast, whereas it doesn’t bother me whether or not I eat in the morning.
A lot of the walk was on roads today, major ones, minor ones, village ones, fast ones, roads with shoulders and roads without. I just plugged in and caught up with eleven episodes of ‘The Archers‘ as I walked along, and at twenty minutes per episode, that is a lot of ‘everyday tales of country folk‘ – even for a fan!
The second most interesting thing I saw today was a woman walking towards me with a big sack of something balanced on her head. I took a good look as I drew level and saw that the contents were potato peelings – I guessed she was taking them to feed some chickens, perhaps.
There was a stretch of eucalyptus forest and then a track through some pasture land, and we passed through several villages but they were not very attractive and largely built in a modern style, probably dating from around the sixties in the style of ugly boxes. Not even many pretty gardens to distract me today. Just an off-day I guess – the first one so far, so I’m not doing too badly.
I only took two photos today, so I can catch up with a few pics taken previously and not displayed.
I have now seen something a bit more interesting today. A guy has just arrived at the albergue, which is also a motel, in a google maps street view car with a huge camera in top. He has been filming the local area. I told him that he should get out of his car and carry the camera along the camino. I’m not sure that he was very amused!
The albergue Hilario is situated directly on the camino, a couple of km’s out of Mealhada. It has been open for a couple of years and has eight bunks for 16 people, with plenty of shower and wc facilities. The staff are really helpful and charming and the facilities are excellent. Highly recommended. 10 euros in the dormitory, and lots of other options for individual accommodation. We are sharing tonight with a Danish couple, a spanish guy and a French woman. The Danes and the French woman are all suffering injuries. The French woman fell today when a car passed her at extremely close quarters and she has grazes and bruises to her knees and elbows.
The culinary speciality of this area is suckling pig. It is served by the weight not by the whole tiny carcass as I have had it before. The pigs are slaughtered when they weigh less than 5 kilos. I had to order in advance, then had a crisis of conscience when I thought that perhaps the poor little piglet had been slaughtered especially for my benefit. But thankfully not the case. It has now arrived, already prepared and cooked, and is being cut up before my eyes. We get 300 grams (including bones) for a cost of 16 euros, which will make it my indulgence of the camino.
The restaurant attached to the albergue is full, mostly with locals and I guess guys travelling and staying over night. The poor little piggy was demolished in no time at all!
Turn away now if you are at all squeamish………
So, for me at least, the day finally redeemed itself!