Day 29: Vila Real to Alcoutim - Grampies Go Valencia to Paris: Spring 2024 - CycleBlaze

March 6, 2024

Day 29: Vila Real to Alcoutim

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Fresh tropical fruit has been commonly available by air freight in Canadian groceries for at least 40 years. But I am just old enough to remember when that was not quite the case. I think first came "Jet Fresh" pineapple, and after a while, you could even find "Dragon Fruit", whatever that is.  These memories are still "fresh" enough, that when I see pineapple, mango, kiwi, orange, melon, grapes, and watermelon all in one place, in March, it's at least worth a photo. So here it is:

At breakfast today.
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Today turned out to be one of the most pleasant and enjoyable of the trip so far. We'll explain why, but all that pleasure and enjoyment might add up to a lack of "material", so here is something from the "archives", that is yesterday. Yesterday when we arrived in Vila Real we took a seat at a gelato place. Looking around, I saw that we were opposite a shop dedicated to the Portuguese national football club, and on the front of the shop they had a rather hunky footballer, looking like he was modelling underwear. Just for fun I sent that by Whatsapp to daughter #2, who is a coach for the grandkids' football. But now today, you too can  see the photo. We met a man from Denmark today (see below, near the end of the post) and he says that he and most everyone in the world (or, football world) knows the guy in my photo.  Do you?

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Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Sue PriceWe really don't know. Could be Messi, or not.
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1 month ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Sue PriceDid a web search, and you're probably right. The real question is "How did you know?"
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1 month ago

Our room in the Apolo Hotel had a balcony, rather high for my taste, but with a view to something very comforting - a bakery ("padaria") - and yes, the rest of the city and whatever!

See that padaria? It's open!
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Before we could leave, there was the matter of extracting the bikes from the shed/grampie trap. The girl gave me the key again (by the way, she says it is the only key, so had I too locked myself in, with the key in my pocket yesterday - lots of tears.). In handing it over, she cautioned me to be careful out there. 

The lock did of course have an inside release - just that one likely could not see it in the pitch black - not that I tested that!
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I was interested, at the Padaria, to see the cost of a Pastel de Nata, the famous Portuguese egg tart. In Sevilla we had seen them offered for 1.80 euros each, and thought that very high. Surprisingly, at the Padaria there was no pastel de nata per se, though there were tartelles. These were priced at 2.05, so hmmm, but then again they were much larger than a generic pastel de nata, so the jury is still out.

2 euro tartelettes - a reasonable price.
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After our unsatisfactory experience with the Google Maps route to Vila Real, we had some very helpful dialog with Scott, and were able to download his route from 2013, which will take us to Mertola from Vila Real.  Scott and Rachael did this in one day, making the download covering two days for us simpler. Scott concedes though, that this many years later even the powerful Anderson couple would allocate the two days for the trip.

We set off toward the nearby Castro Marim, with  a bike path on the left side pf the road that allowed us to gawk at all the flamingos and other water birds, off to the left.

The salt marsh, to our left
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What is with these Flamingoes?
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Black Winged Stilt
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24157 Kentish Plover
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Glossy Ibis
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A Northern Shoveler couple
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Another Northern Shoveler
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We also passed this sculpture, made famous in a previous Classen production.
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Much more orderly Flamingoes
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Still rare to see cattle on our route.
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In summer this will produce salt
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As we slowly wheeled along the walking/bike path we passed a lady, walking briskly, who had clearly been in town picking up groceries. She greeted us once and twice, as we passed her and then stopped to gawk at birds. Finally either she or we opened a conversation. We then found this random lady on a sidewalk to be very knowledgeable about this region, and willing to share. My first dumb question was as to what does "Castro" mean. The answer - from the Latin, designating a town. The word castro occurs in many Portuguese town names, which she listed! The lady went on to explain to us the rental and purchase real estate market here, the industries and products (sardines, carob, olives, almonds) that used to be traded out of Vila Real,  who built the fort in Castro Marim, and how they were defending against Moors from Spain and also pirates, and more. 

The local lady, knowledgeable and generous with her time!
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This windmill, and the garden below it are often found in materials that reference Castro Marim.
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The Castro Marim fort. It's possible to visit it, but so far no Cycleblazer has taken the time.
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In Castro Marim.
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A simple but attractive town.
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Have a good trip. Thanks for your visit. It's easy to read Portuguese when you know what it has to say.
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From this point we really can say that the ride and the day was just heavenly.  It begins with the herbs and flowers by the roadside. We have noticed this particularly in Portugal - it seems almost deliberately planted.  And while there is lots of evidence of management of trees and plants, most of the beauty seems natural, or at least naturalized. Then there was the road - quite smooth, narrow and winding, but almost totally devoid of traffic. Whereas one car per second is something we have experienced, here is was about one per 30 minutes! The temperature may have started with a cool 10 or 11, but it soon was 20, and then almost 30. 

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Spanish Lavender. Potted versions cost a fortune back home!
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Although the industries mentioned by the walking lady still exist, Portugal like everyone else has moved into car production, petrochemicals, and suchlike heavy industries. And like elsewhere, Services account for a lot of the GDP.  Within that, we have seen that Tourism and Real Estate has surged, including the likes of golf courses, which are all over the southern part of the country. So we were not surprised to see a large golf club near Azinhal.

Once we are talking Real Estate this house looked very attractive. Not that it was for sale.
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This is kind of carved out of the brush.
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Barn Swallow
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The gorgeous riding went on and on, and unlike on some days, I was hoping the ride would not end. It was just so much fun.
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Kelly IniguezYou haven't mentioned any concerns about battery life. Is the terrain more friendly this trip, or do these bikes have batteries with longer life?
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1 month ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Kelly IniguezTrue. These batteries, in fact the whole system, are better thsn tge ones we have for the Bike Fridays. The size is about the samebut the performance of these is superior. We have cut it pretty fine on some days, but so far all is well. Fingers crossed since we are now in the hilliest parts of the trip.
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Descending toward the Odeleite, which is a tributary of the Guadiana, the main river, on which Alcoutim and Vila Real are situated.
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We pulled in to a bus stop to eat our sandwiches. It was opposite this attractive house.
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As the sign shows, we are on the Camino here. It is one of many routes, this one called the Caminho Nacscente. This one starts in Tavira, in the Algarve and follows the Guadiana north. It in part parallels the better known all Spanish Camino de la Plata which goes straight north from Sevilla.
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We have returned to the Guadiana, and will follow it from here to Alcoutim. The river was originally called Anas by the Romans, and the Arabs added Uadi, meaning river. The present name evolved from these two: Uadiana.
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We arrived at Alcoutim, but because we were right in it, could not get an overview shot. We could, however, see "our" fort, which opposes the fort across the river.
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Across the river is the Spanish town of Sanlucar de Guadiana, with its big white fort high above.
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The fort above Sanlucar.
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Closer look at Sanlucar
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In Alcoutim we tried out our idea of getting a "Creanciale" and collecting stamps from churches and tourist places along the Camino, since we obviously were however half heartedly "doing" a Camino. So I stopped in to the church, but found it unstaffed and without a station for self serve creantiale stamping. Dodie had better luck at TI, and collected our first "sello", though we will use her notebook for them rather than the "official" document. The original idea of the creantiale was to have an introduction from a pilgrim's local church, asking that they be well treated along their journey, and put up in albergue's or "hospitals".  For us, it's more like VISA  and Booking.com have taken over those functions!

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The "front porch" of the church with no sellos was occupied by tables from "O Soeiro", which bills itself as the best grill in Alcoutim. I could see the patrons with large servings of steak and salad, and saw that the place was cooking on a large charcoal fired grill. When we realized that we were still hours before check in at the youth hostel where we had booked, we became patrons too.

Tables in the shade were at a premium, so we introduced ourselves to a man who was sitting alone at a table for four or six, The man turned out to be Peter Lind, from Denmark. He quipped that having us there would be fine, since he had no other friends, anyway. He later confessed that he did have a wife, and that she was in the town somewhere. We later also met the lovely Susan.

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On learning that Peter was from Denmark, I asked whether sitting together was appropriate, since weren't Canada and Denmark at war? Peter did know a little about it. It was called the Whiskey War, and it started in 1984 when Canada grabbed a tiny island somewhere between Greenland and Ellesmere Island, planting a flag and a bottle of whiskey, I think. The Danes countered with their own flag and a bottle of Schnapps. There followed an active exchange of "flag and whiskey" fire. But now we see that :  "On June 14, 2022, peace was brokered between two longstanding NATO allies, Canada and Denmark. A ceremonial exchange of liquor bottles signaled the end of the long running “Whisky War” between the two nations." Peter wryly observed that Canada and Denmark could not fight it out now anyway, since both have given all their ammo to Ukraine.

Since peace had clearly broken out between our countries, we enjoyed a convivial meal, ending in an exchange of email addresses!

Peter and Susan
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After saying goodbye to our new friends, we were joined by two others. One was a sparrow that just came to say hello, but the other was a cat that got the remains of our steak.

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Bill ShaneyfeltAn extra "o" ?

:-)
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1 month ago
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We returned to the youth hostel, where we found that our room overlooked the river and across to Sanlucar. It's a really nice spot, but from here we can already see the fairly steep hill climbs that are coming tomorrow. It will be ok, we know, because the ride, however stiff, is quite short.

Our room looks out on the river.
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Today's ride: 46 km (29 miles)
Total: 1,322 km (821 miles)

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Scott AndersonWell, that’s dull! Where’s all the adventure in that?

Glad to see this is still the outstanding route I remember from a decade ago.
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1 month ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Scott AndersonIt's your fault that we did not have to fight through sand traps. Tomorrow should be more of the same as today. Your routing is brilliant, by the way. Thanks.
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonIf you want, you can follow our route all the way to Evora, but after that you’re on your own again. We haven’t been anywhere else on your Portuguese route until north of Porto - we biked from Santiago to Viana do Castelo in our 2019 tour, so that might help you when the time comes.

You’ll note that after Mourao we stayed at Monseraz (an amazing hilltop village, beautiful but a painful climb) instead of Reguelos, where I think you’re going. It’s easy to see how you’d adapt our routes though - just stay on the road you’re already on after Mourao instead of branching off to Monsaraz. And the next day, angle northwest on the white road to Montoito and intersect our route to Evora there. Good luck!
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1 month ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Scott AndersonThe plan is to more or less copy your routes wherever possible. Good thing we're not in high school, where cribbing is frowned upon.
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