Barcelos, Portugal. Yesterday’s walk, from outside Porto to Arcos, was mostly terrifying, as we dodged roaring trucks along the shoulder-less N306 highway. We often had to jump into a ditch to avoid being transformed from pilgrims to martyrs.
So we were delighted when we arrived at Quinta São Miguel de Arcos for the evening. The inn is a compound of several old farm buildings, beautifully reclaimed. Small patios and courtyards are tucked around every corner. Our rooms were large, with stone walls, huge beams in the ceilings, and claw foot bathtubs (a hiker’s delight at the end of a tiring day).
António, the proprietor, suggested we allow his wife to cook dinner for us. We were the only two people in the dining room (we ate unfashionably early), and dinner was lavish: tiny croquettes, slices of black sausage, cabbage soup, grilled salmon, French cut green beans, boiled potatoes with a red pepper sauce, chocolate mousse – all for €12 apiece. We drank a bottle of vinho verde, the Portuguese “green wine” we’d seen on several wine lists. It was light and sparkling and reminded me of Spanish cava.
The walk out of the hamlet of Arcos went through a eucalyptus forest, dark and cool and freshly scented. We spent most of the morning on dirt roads, past fields of corn which were often bounded by grapevines around the edges. The countryside is in full bloom; we’ve seen foxglove, bougainvillea, roses, calla lilies, Peruvian lilies, daylilies, oleander, bird of paradise, orchids, trumpet vines, hydrangea in a deep violet shade, gladiolas, wisteria, bromeliads, zinnias and lots more we couldn’t identify.
We stopped for lunch at Pedra Furada, accidentally walking into their fine restaurant rather than the café next door. The woman who greeted us was obviously disappointed that all we ordered was grilled sausages and green salad (followed by chocolate mouse and a date/chili tart). “Hmph, no pesca,” she commented to a friend when we declined the sardines. Lunch was excellent, however, and the owner (another António) welcomed us warmly. He even dragged a couple of hikers from Brazil out of the café to meet us. He stamped our credentiales, gave us a map of Barcelos, and asked us to write in his guest book. Ours was the first English entry for several pages.
The late afternoon was harder for me. My very broken-in boots carved blisters on both heels and a couple of toes, and my recent knee injury kicked in. I hobbled into town in pain.