Camino - Day 8
Thursday morning and a fairly short run today, 16K. Sorry to leave our parador but we were waiting for the restaurant to open at 8 and were on the road by 8:30.
Have been keeping an eye open to see if I notice many significant differences between Portugal and Spain as we walk through both countries especially since one of the most rewarding things about walking is that you do have time to notice. . Have picked up a number of things; I know this may be treading on dangerous ground but I'm not ascribing national characteristics to my observations, simply noting what I see.
The most immediate impression is a noticeable sense of shabbiness in Spain as compared to Portugal. Wherever we walked in Portugal everyone seemed to take care of the appearance of their homes and fields, a very evident sense of being "house proud" while it is not nearly as evident so far in Spain. In fact we were struck by this as we crossed the bridge from Portugal and crossed into Spain, the Portuguese border town was clean, bright and well-taken care of and Tui, while historical and interesting was distinctly shabby and tacky.
Expanding on that for a minute, not only were Portuguese country houses well-kept, there were continuing examples of creative and modern architecture and significant numbers of really interesting buildings, most of which shared two characteristics. The first was that most seemed to have been designed within the last 20 or 30 years and many much more recently than that and secondly, the largest percentage of them were shuttered and locked. Bearing in mind that this was Easter week and schools and many businesses were closed for the holiday and since they were country homes you would have expected that many of them would have been occupied for the holiday. We asked our hosts about this at a couple of the hotels where we stayed and the answer we were given was always the same. The owners all work in Germany, the US, Canada etc and use them for a couple of weeks in the summer and then they are closed for the rest of the year. The owners' expectation is that they will return to Portugal someday and their home will be waiting for the. We were told that there are 10 million Portuguese living in Portugal and 5 million living abroad and the expat professionals all expect to return, meanwhile the family looks after the homes and the expats send money into the country. Certainly another very noticeable difference between the two countries was the prevalence of Audis, BMW's and Mercedes in Portugal and the absence so far in Spain.
One difference that affects me directly is that in the two hotels where we have stayed in Spain, one a parador and tonight a pretty basic 3 star in a small town, only turn on their heat at 7 for two hours and at 6 am for two hours. If you're trying to dry your laundry, this not a good thing! I'm carrying around wet clothes and hoping that at some point I'll be able to dry them. In Portugal, in all the places we stayed, we could control our radiators and I could manage my laundry!
Even though it was only 16K today I really struggled with my busted toe and really began to wonder if I could finish. My hiking shoes are nice and light but they are the cause of the problem; my left foot is slightly larger than my right and all of the cobbles and downhills are jamming my toes into the front of my left shoe. I cut a large piece out of the front of my shoe when I got to the hotel today and I hope that this will get me through tomorrow. I think tomorrow night's town is larger and I'm hope that there is a sport shop where I can find a better pair of shoes.
The day was brilliantly sunny for the first time in days and large sections of our walk were through forests and fields; should have been a really pleasant day but my toe insisted in inserting itself into my day. Better hopes for tomorrow.