Day 14: Deep Thoughts in Mealhada


Day 14

Date: Monday, Sep 19, 2016
Start: Coimbra
Stop: Hotel Anadia Cabecinho, Anadia     👎
Dist (Day/Total): 29/286 km
High Temp: 29 C/84 F

A single thumbs up or down is simply an indication of whether I would stay there again or not.  It is not a recommendation.  A double thumbs up or down indicates that the place was great and I highly recommend it or absolutely awful and stay away.

Got a 7 am start.  I had requested a box breakfast, which was ready for me when I checked out in the morning.  

Today’s walk was was along a highway for practically the whole day.  Trucks and cars zipping by.  Having to grab hat; keep it from flying off.  The good news about it being a highway was that there was a pretty wide shoulder to walk along . . .  When there weren’t cars parked on it.

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I suddenly started seeing cars parked by the side of the highway, first on one side, then both and eventually some double parking.  As I got to a major intersection I could see why.  There was a big flea/farmers market.  I started to walk thru the stalls but it was very crowded and, if you’ve seen one flea market, you’ve seen them all.  

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I also started noticing a lot of signs like the one in this picture.  Evidently this area is known for it’s roasted suckling pigs.  Although, later on, I found out that the sign in the picture, below, while showing a pig, is actually advertising roasted lamb.  Oh, well . . . lamb, pig.  It’s all meat.

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And I also came across this restaurant.  Houston has a Brazilian steakhouse called Fago de Chao.  But if you prefer your’s without chao . . .

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I stopped for lunch in Mealhada.  No, did not have suckling pig.  Had my usual go-to for lunch – ham and cheese sandwich, preferably toasted.  But before I got to Mealhada, on the side of the highway, I saw a provocatively dressed woman sitting in what looked like a La-z-boy.  As they say in France, “quelle bizarre”!  Go on.  Say it in a French accent.  For some reason it sounds much more appropriate for the circumstance than English.  As I got closer, I noticed (only in passing) that she was dolled up, low cut blouse and a lot of cleavage (in passing, I said).  She gave me a big smile and said something I didn’t understand.  I mumbled Bom Caminho and kept going.  WTF???  She’s not a pilgrim but is she . . .  No.

She was.  Evidently, this is not uncommon to see along highways in Portugal, mostly women from Eastern Europe.  I came across it a couple of more times.  Later, I wished I had stopped to talk to her.  Would it have been ok to ask if I could take her picture.  I decided that it wouldn’t have been ok.  I don’t know her circumstances.  She’s a human being trying to make a living and not some freak show.  I was embarrassed and horrified to think that I had turned into an easily titillated, stereotype of a Tommy Bahama shirted mouth gaping open middle aged man from middle America waddling down a street in a foreign land with a fanny pack strapped around my waist nudging my wife with one arm and pointing with other and loudly asking, “Hey, Martha, do you think that’s a hoor?”  FUUUUUUCK!!!  

I slapped myself and ordered another beer, smiling reassuringly at the alarmed couple at the next table, doing my best to silently convey that I was ok.  But obviously failing as they hurriedly scampered off, not finishing the piece of cake that they had been sharing.  So, I got my beer, raised it in a silent toast to hookers everywhere and hoped that they were safe.

After lunch, I headed on to Anadia.  Before you got into town, there was a very short section where the trail went off the road and through some trees.  You couldn’t see in the distance.  When you came out of the trees, you saw something that, compared to other towns, looked completely different.  Wide, divided streets.  A lot of concrete.  The section I went through was filled with stadiums, ball fields and other sporting venues.  

The hotel was about 200 m off the trail.  I had checked and they appeared to have plenty of rooms, so, I didn’t make a reservation.  Sure enough, they had rooms available.  And they also had a pilgrim discount.  Previously, I had never thought to ask.  Going forward, I also asked and most hotels in Portugal did.  The hotel was different also.  The lobby was big.  The room was big.  Big compared to other hotels in Portugal but what would be considered normal in the US.

After showering, I had beers at a restaurant next door.  I talked to the owner, she and her husband had spent several years working in France and spoke fluent French.    She talked about the food in her restaurant and how it was Portuguese but had French influences.  I came back for dinner.  Can’t remember what I had but it was very good.  

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Portuguese people moving to other countries for opportunity seemed like a common thing.  I met quite a few people who had lived and worked in other countries, mostly Western Europe, but also Canada, South America and the Middle East.  None from US.  Compared to the rest of Western Europe, Portugal is very poor.  And it seems like a lot of Portuguese people moved to other countries for economic reasons, with some returning after the recession of 2008.  In Belgium and Luxembourg there were a lot of Portuguese run bars/cafes.  I had thought Spain was inexpensive but Portugal is even less expensive.  At least Southern Portugal.  Once you get to Porto, prices are comparable to Spain.

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