Every day when I type the date in my blog, it reminds me of how fast time is passing. I have a bit over two weeks left in my trip. There is not time enough to do everything I want to do, but at least I should reach Santiago de Compostela with ample time to take a train to Madrid and my flight home, even at the slow pace I am cycling.
The bike ride from Barcelos here to Ponte de Lima was not as pleasant as I might have hoped. The area between the two cities is very built-up with heavy car traffic and narrow roads. I started by taking a rural road, but I was soon put off by the rough cobblestones and by the fact that some of those country roads are unbelievably steep, and they are not even very rural. I finally decided to take the highway. I should have learned that lesson the day before.
The picture below will give you an idea of the congestion on the roads. The cars in the picture are the tail end of a long line of stopped traffic. They creep forward a few feet from time to time. At times I was able to ride my bike to the right of the line of traffic and pass a whole string of cars. At other times, the road was too narrow for me to do that. When one driver tries to make a left turn, traffic can back up behind it for blocks.
I think the fact that it was hot contributed to my negative attitude about the crowded conditions. By Phoenix standards it was not hot, but by the standards of Portugal, it was quite toasty. Of course, I was dripping wet from sweat. I could have rung out my cycling jersey. When I arrived, the first thing I did was get a shower, put on dry clothes and wash out my cycling jersey and shorts. I wonder how I smelled to the receptionist when I checked in.
At one point, a group of cyclists ahead of me abandoned the highway and made for a parallel closed-off pedestrian street, and I followed them. This is the pedestrian way below. Despite riding at a walking pace, I made better time there than I did on the road. Foot traffic in this mall was light, because it was Sunday and most stores were closed. However, the pedestrian mall ended, and soon I was back out in slowly-moving traffic.
I took the picture below a bit earlier on the ride north. I can’t tell you what the building is, but I was impressed by the tile roof and the tiny fake turrets at the corners of the roofs of the two mini-towers. The building’s style struck me as symbolic of Portugal: a modern country whose architecture is sometimes still influenced by the past.
Below is a picture of my bike parked outside the café where I had breakfast. I ordered a giant crescent roll, the largest one I have ever seen, plus a cup of coffee. Together they made a meal. The bill came to 1.95 euros or about $2.30 in US currency. Portugal is without a doubt the cheapest European country I have ever visited, although I’m told that parts of Eastern Europe are even more economical.
Oh, in the picture, those two bright spots to the left of one of the posts are the reflectors on my pannier bags shining in the sun. You might also make out that they are attached to my bike, which is leaning against the post. You should be able to click on any of the photos in this blog to see them in a larger format in high resolution.
Below is a picture of the old stone bridge across the Lima River here in Ponte de Lima. Ponte is Portuguese for bridge, so it is evident the city took its name from the bridge. Ponte de Lima claims to be the oldest town in Portugal. According to what I read in some local tourist office propaganda, this old bridge was once the only way to cross the Lima River, so traffic congregated here, and the town grew up around the bridge. Teresa, Countess of Portugal, signed the town’s charter on March 4, 1125 according to one of the municipality’s publicity pamphlets.
Incidentally, the Lima River gets good use as a recreational resource. I walked though the riverside park this afternoon and saw people kayaking. On the opposite bank of the river there is a swimming beach, which from the distance looked to be very crowded. There was a Sunday afternoon market in progress in the riverside park, and I had hopes of finding a food stand, but no one was selling prepared food. My original goal was to walk to a mini-market that Google Maps showed at a 15 minute walk from the hostel where I am staying. However, when I got there, there was no market. I’ve seldom known Google Maps to be wrong, but this time it was.
One good thing that came out of my walk is that I found a Korean store that sells almost any sort of physical item you might want from clothing to cell phone covers to hardware. I have been losing the adapters that I brought with me from the States that convert the European electrical outlets to the American plugs on my electronic devices. Occasionally while charging my cell phone or computer in a café, I’ll pull the plug out and forget to pull the adapter out of the outlet. The Korean store had them, of course, so I bought three for 79 European cents each.
I also stumbled upon the local office of the Portuguese Communist Party. That’s what the letters PCP stand for. The office didn’t look very impressive. I think it only occupies the upper floor.
My final photograph is of a small shrine in a niche in a stone wall alongside a busy street. It is the type of shrine one finds often in formerly-Catholic countries. There are apparently still some believers, because someone place fresh flowers there. Just as in other industrialized countries, in Portugal the Catholic Church and religion in general have lost much of the respect that they once had.
There will be no cycling for Jack Quinn today. I’m spending another night here in Ponte Lima. I am in no rush to get to Santiago, and I want to spend a day enjoying this city. Tomorrow I will try to hit the road early and get a few kilometers under my wheels before the traffic gets too bad.