Friday, April 28, 2017

Day 14: I pick up a new hiking companion... Amanda!

Sept 30: I didn't sleep well during the night. The temperature in the hostel was quite hot and--even more surprising--the mosquitoes were awful. We were indoors! Where did all those mosquitoes come from?!

I had a laughably short 15-kilometer day into Porto today, and was in no big hurry. I could finish the day's hike in 3 hours, easy--and not even need a rest along the way. I didn't want to get into Porto too early either--hotels might not allow me to check in that early.

By morning, the mosquitoes finally went away so I lingered at the hostel fairly late. Unfortunately, Mary lingered too and wound up coming up to my room to chat a bit asking if the mosquitoes were bad up here. "Yep," I answered.

She was so infuriated by the mosquitoes, she told me, she set up her tent inside the hostel to escape them. I was a little envious. I wish I had thought of that. And had a tent. =)

She also told me a rather alarming story about a pervert who had started jerking off right in front of her then followed her down the trail, but he peeled off when she took a photo of his car. She then reported the incident to the local police in Coimbra and asked that I warn any women hiking in the opposite direction to be careful in that vicinity. That, I would certainly do that, but I never saw any other women walking in that direction. Like I've said before, it wasn't common to see people hiking in the other direction.

I was the last person to leave the hostel and waited around long enough to make sure Mary got a good head start on me. When Mary left, she asked me which direction the trail went explaining that she had taken a bus into town yesterday so didn't know where the trail had come from or where it was going. I pointed to the left--follow the yellow arrow on the front door. I didn't really care that she took a bus--except for the fact that it threw her in my path again.

I didn't want to catch up with Mary, so I dwaddled a bit longer at the hostel letting her get a solid head start on me. Despite all my dwaddling, though, I still left the hostel by 8:00. It didn't have Internet access and I had grown bored sitting the dingy building reading my Kindle.

The walk into Porto was positively awful almost the entire distance following busy, noisy roads. I was disappointed to catch up with Mary after about an hour or so when she stopped to chat with some locals, and I soon took a "much needed" break so she would move on and leave me alone before continuing on myself.

The trail followed some busy roads deeper into Porto, eventually arriving at the Douro River and the historic old part of town which was absolutely spectacular! Incredible views, dramatic bridges, gondolas, boats and ancient historic buildings dotted the skyline.

But I had still arrived far too soon to check into any hotels. Actually, I had a specific hotel in mind. I had checked out lodging options a few days earlier and was startled to see that most of the hostels and hotels listed online were already full! And that was a few days earlier! I was planning to meet Amanda today, and the cost of a cheap hotel was barely more than the cost of two beds at a hostel, so I decided we should stay at a hotel. And I decided we'd take the day off tomorrow and just sight-see around town. Porto was the second-largest city in Portugal and had plenty to see!

I had trouble finding a cheap hotel for two consecutive nights, however--they were all full either one night or the other. Eventually, I booked two different hotels for each night. It would be inconvenient to move hotels, but it was better than paying a few hundred euros to stay in one place.

But still, I had arrived in Porto too early. The hotel's check-in time was nearly two hours away, and Amanda wasn't expected to arrive until later in the day as well. So I took an extended break at a nice viewpoint overlooking the downtown core of Porto.

About an hour later, I headed towards the hotel, swinging by the cathedral along the way. Many pilgrims start their Portuguese hike in Porto and pick up their credencials here to begin their walk. I saw numerous people carrying packs and looking confused--clearly pilgrims just beginning their journeys. I've been told that the section from Lisbon to Porto wasn't a popular section and I wouldn't see many pilgrims--and for the most part, I didn't--but the trail would be a lot busier between Porto and Santiago and so far, that already appeared to be the case. In a five-minute window, I counted six different people I pegged as pilgrims.

I took a quick look around the cathedral and had the guy who sold the credencials stamp mine with the cathedral's stamp. I didn't have to purchase one since I already had it, but I still wanted mine stamped. Amanda would have to come later to get her own credencial stamped.

I continued on to the hotel hoping they might check me in a bit early, which they did. I took a quick shower and changed clothes, then walked out to the train station. Amanda was flying into Lisbon and taking the train to Porto. She said that if she got on the early train, she was expected to arrive at 2:50. Otherwise, she would arrive sometime around 6 or 7:00. It depended on how long it took her to get through customs at the airport. Since it had taken so long for me to get through customs in Lisbon I was not sure she would make the 2:50 arrival.  At the hotel, I checked my email, but I hadn't gotten anything from Amanda. I didn't know if that meant she was on the train and unable to contact me, or that she hadn't gotten on the train and wasn't able to contact me. Her flight should have landed in Lisbon that morning, but it would take time to get through customs and immigration then a train to Porto. So I showed up at the train station... just in case... but kind of doubting she caught the earlier train.

The train station was gorgeous with enormous tiled walls showing the history of Portugal. I waited for about a half hour after her scheduled arrival time, not entirely sure which train she would arrive on--assuming, of course, that she arrived at all. She had to change trains outside of Porto so it's not like the arrivals board would say the arriving train was coming from Lisbon--it wasn't, and I wasn't sure which arriving train she'd be on. So I waited by every train that arrived... just in case... but Amanda never showed up and a half hour after her expected arrival, I threw in the towel and gave up.

I was starving at this point--I hadn't eaten lunch yet--but I was anxious to get back to the hotel and check my email again hoping for an update from Amanda. I noticed a McDonalds nearby and figured they'd have to be fast--it was McDonalds, after all! I walked in and oh my! Wow!!! I was absolutely stunned.

Chandeliers hung from the ceilings and stained-glass windows were lit up, and a curvy staircase led downstairs. For a moment, I thought I walked into the wrong place. This was a 5-star restaurant! But no... it was... McDonalds. There were the McDonalds menu boards, with a Big Mac and everything. It felt wrong on so many levels....

Hard to believe, but this is actually McDonalds.

I went ahead and ordered a combo meal--supersize it! I needed the calories. =) I scarfed it down quickly and headed back to the hotel where I checked my email and finally got an update from Amanda saying that she had arrived in Lisbon and was on the train, and should arrive in Porto around 7:00.

I had a few hours to kill and took a short nap. I was a bit tired from my lack of sleep the night before and by around 6:30 headed back to the train station to await Amanda's imminent arrival.

She finally got off a train that arrived at 7:15. There were hugs and a tearful reunion. Well, there was a hug. Not so much tears, but it sounded good, right? =)

I asked Amanda if she was hungry and needed some dinner (nope). Anything she wanted to see or do?

And she said that there was a McDonalds in Porto that was allegedly the "world's most glamorous McDonalds" that she wanted to see.

I held up a finger. "Say no more! It's on the way to the hotel! We'll make a quick stop." =)

I had no idea when I walked in the first time that it was billed as the world's "most glamorous" McDonalds--but apparently it was a tourist attraction and Amanda learned about it while researching the town. It was kind of a shame that she already knew about its reputation, though. She probably wouldn't have the same, stunned shock that I had when I walked in.

So we swung by the McDonalds where she poked her head around and ooohed and ahhhed. She took a few photos then we left without buying anything.

Amanda admires some of the tourist souvenirs for sale.

On the way to the hotel, we passed a couple of tourists shops and Amanda couldn't help herself--she had to go in and look around. She looked in a couple of shops for about 15 minutes, and eventually came out and we finally arrived at the hotel.

It was already getting dark out so we called it a day. Tomorrow, we would officially hit the streets of Porto!

Amanda started the morning in a first class seat for her flight to Lisbon. Flying in style! =)

I started the day walking the streets towards Porto.

Construction led me on a slight detour, but the detour was well-marked!

The trail runs over the top of this bridge over the Douro River. Awesome views!
It's a funicular! I made a mental note.... Amanda might want to ride the funicular later. =)

The Porto Cathedral
Inside the cathedral

The lobby of the train station is a tourist attraction in its own right with tiled walls showing the history of Portugal.
Waiting around for trains to arrive...

Even the exterior of the McDonalds had this elaborate statue over the front door.
Amanda took this photo while waiting to change trains on the way to Porto. I'm not actually sure where this photo was taken, although I can see from the clock on the column that she took it at about 3:30 in the afternoon. =)
And yeah! Amanda finally made it! (This photo was taken the next day when it was actually light out. It was already getting dark when Amanda arrived.)


vicki said...

Its so funny to read how you don't want to leave too early so you sit around killing time and then finally leave at 8am! What time do you get up that you are killing so much time that 8am is a late start??

Ryan said...

I was often up at 5:30 and hiking by 6:30. =)

-- Ryan

hal said...

Which is Amanda?