Evening meal in Vila do Bispo

We have had our first ‘experience’ of traditional Portugal!?

There are probably a dozen restaurants in town but only one was open.

Cafe Correia, opened at 7:30. We were outside at 7:20, there were diners inside and the door was unlocked so we wandered in. Only one table was occupied however it seemed that the elderly lady greeting us really, really wanted to turn us away. Begrudgingly she led us to a table and reluctantly gave us a menu. This indicated a choice of stews for one or two people served in large metal pots. We immediately discounted shrimp options, they were for two people and there was no way John was touching shrimp. That left us with chicken, rabbit or pork cheek stew. We settled for chicken! The lady however wouldn’t accept our order if we simply pointed at the item on the menu. With a mischievous look on her face, she made Kim order in Portuguese!

With help from the Portuguese couple next to us, we managed to extend our order to a bottle of red wine and include rice rather than potatoes with our stew.

Dinner arrived and was simply delicious although it contained lots of bones which we didn’t recognise as being from a chicken and was very grey in colour…..

The decor was very traditional and unlike anything we’ve seen so far, which actually hasn’t been very much. The restaurant slowly filled up, the cook wearing a short sleeved jumper and chefs hat wandered round asking if our meal was ok. A waiter appeared and it started to feel less like someone’s front room.

The couple on the neighbouring table chose a dessert made from local almonds, figs, alfarroba and spices. With their help, and that of a translation app on the phone, we managed to order it too. It was too delicious to save for a photo.

Finally the bill was requested from the waiter. He had studiously avoided eye contact, we think he’d decided our lack of Portuguese made us too difficult to deal with. The elderly lady reappeared, from where she had been washing dishes in the kitchen, muttered and scribbled some figures down on a piece of paper for us.

We finished the evening with a walk round the cobbled streets of this traditional, historic Portuguese town determined to have walked over 30,000 steps.

Salema to Vila do Bispo

10 km by road or 19.5 km on foot.

Our feet and legs were a little tired from yesterday’s walk, but the sun was shining and we had a packed lunch. We also had three maps and 10 pages of instructions.

The mad cat lady served us breakfast this morning and explained that a charity was neutering the cats to reduce the feral population. You could tell which cats had been neutered because they have a corner from an ear. It prevents distress to an animal that has already been caught and saves time when rounding up the next group.

We set out, heading west along the coast before turning inland to the village of Figueira.

The views were glorious but the paths are heavy going. Many are rocky and rutted, others are very slippery with gravel.

At Figueira, we walked past small farms and in, what looked like an abandoned field, John took the opportunity to scrump an orange.

As we climbed up the hill we could see Figueira in the distance behind us.

We then negotiated a steep, slippery descent to Praia de Furnas. We stopped at the beach for a snack. We’d been walking for over 2 hours and covered just 6.5km. We’d been looking forward to our orange. Kim carefully peeled and divided it only to spit it out 2 seconds later. It was very juicy but also very bitter, thank goodness for the apple and banana we had brought with us.

Back up another hill and we were walking through more scrubland, similar to that seen yesterday. We continued the almost vertical climb until we could see the sea again. Round a corner and we were above Zavial beach where we saw our first surfers of the trip. This is a great area for surfing but, until now, the sea had been very flat and calm.

We followed the cliff path very carefully while pondering that you wouldn’t see a path like that at home. If you look carefully, you can see the green and blue stripes that are used as way marks.

Our route took us away from the cliff path and a longer way down to the beach. Our feet and legs complained every step of the way. We were just over halfway and had been walking for almost 4 hours.

This is the busiest beach we’ve seen and there was a vague hope the beach cafe would be open. No such luck, so we sat on the cafe steps and watched the surfers while eating our lunch which the cat lady had presented us with, it was very welcome and very nice. The cheese and ham salad sandwiches had travelled better than us.

We stopped to chat to an English surf dude who had spent the last six months here in Portugal while trying decide whether to make it a permanent move. Currently he lives here in a shed with a corrugated asbestos roof and wood burning stove and drives a very beaten up Toyota pickup (which he’d driven the 1000 miles down from England) Back in the UK, work was making him ill so he’s now living a better, simpler life.

Unsurprisingly, there was yet another steep hill away from the beach towards the next cove. It was lovely to walk almost a km on tarmac before rejoining the coastal path. The track was quite treacherous and, in places, difficult to see which route to take, this is the first time we have needed to use a compass to check we are on the right path.

We decided not to take the option for a steep descent to Praia da Barranco, It would be difficult to beat Zavial beach and we were tired and our feet sore.

It is quite alarming when you’re walking in such a remote place where we don’t speak the language. We passed a few houses in the middle of nowhere and saw less than a dozen people on the way.

At the 16km point, the route took us up another steep track, this one was through the garden of a private house. The french owners allow access for walkers we were wishing they also provided a golf buggy! You can just see the track in the left hand corner of the picture.

We endured our last 3.5 km and finally after almost 7 hours of walking Vila do Bispo came into sight.

Luckily our hotel is one of the first buildings you come to. The receptionist carefully explained that our stay included complimentary use of the swimming pool and gym but then looked at our faces and realised we probably wouldn’t be using either. Instead we have collapsed in a heap, it’s going to be a real struggle to get our shoes back on when we go out for dinner later.

Vila do Bispo is the commercial and administrative centre for the area, is has a 16th century church and, more importantly, a selection of restaurants for us to choose from.