São Miguel da Guarda to Vilar Formosa – 42km
Our last day in Portugal gave us reasonable weather and reasonable hills! The terrain reminded us of the moors of the UK, with granite, mist and lichen-wrapped trees, with the exception of the vineyards, of course! It felt a long way from Lisbon.
We checked in to our 2-star hotel in Vilar Formoso shortly after lunch and wondered why we hadn’t cycled on to Ciudad Rodrigo. The room was cold (we had ignored Trip Advisor reviews of “super frio” and “frio frio” as there were few other options) and the view from our window was uninspiring. It soon began to rain heavily. Eventually, around 6:30 we had to go in search of food, despite the rain and the fact that of the restaurants that were open on a Monday evening, most would not be open for another hour. Stopping at a pastelaria, hoping for a grilled cheese sandwich, the proprietor informed us that they were closing, but that the restaurant down the street was open. We walked into the Café Oliveira, where the proprietors were sitting watching TV, looking quite disconcerted when we entered. We realised later, that, although the door said “Aberto”, they didn’t open for dinner until 7:00. It turned out to be a most charming evening and good meal (salad, grilled Marlin and home-made cheesecake, made with cheese from Burgos) and the owner was delightful (and very impressed with our cycle trip and number of grandchildren!)
Further thoughts on the eucalyptus. Paul has been curious about the pervasive planting of eucalyptus, introduced in the later 19th C, to the point of sending a number of emails to Lois’ brother, Brian, a lumber expert. We have assumed that the indigenous forests have long since disappeared, but wondered why eucalyptus has replaced indigenous species. Although an important source of pulp now, the trees are not without controversy; their effects on the water supply and flora have drawn protests.
Thankyou, Portugal, for your boa hospitalidade! You have set the bar high for the rest of our trip, with your friendliness , history and architecture, great food, fine wines, good roads, respectful drivers and pristeen bathrooms! Até nos encontrarmos de novo.
Wildlife notes: Many days ago in the Mondego river valley we saw several pairs of Black Kites that would have returned from Africa to nest; a red fox on a quiet road two days ago and today flocks of Azure-winged Magpies.