Today was a relatively short walk: only 15 km, and mostly flat, rural and often picturesque, with moderate temperatures under mostly clear skies.
We woke early, and in my case often, as I found it nearly impossible to get comfortable on a bed that was too narrow, too short and too firm. And it may be that my dreams were disturbed by visions of oversized polychromatic roosters, like those I’d seen everywhere in town. I had begun to wonder, as we wandered around town, if Barcelos was the centre of strange chicken cult.
When I tried to pst this picture on Facebook, they wouldn’t allow it. Perhaps it violates a rule about cock shots?
It turns out I wasn’t far wrong, and that the legend of the rooster is integral to not just Barcelos, but also to the national identity of Portugal. It also has ties to the Caminho. A pilgrim from a neighbouring village was sentenced to death, but told the magistrate that, as proof of his innocence, a rooster – one the judge had planned to eat that night – would crow at the moment of his hanging. Skeptical, the judge nevertheless set the bird aside. And just as the pilgrim had foretold, the cock began crowing as the innocent man was led to the gallows. The judge ran to save the pilgrim, who later returned and sculpted a cross in honour of St. Mary and St. James, whom he believed had interceded on his behalf. The cross is known to this day as The Cross of the Lord of the Rooster.
Of course, I don’t recall anything quite so elaborate from my dreams. In fact, I don’t recall them at all, and it may be that there were no roosters haunting my sleep. I can’t say.
At any rate, a short time after waking, we went up to the free hotel breakfast, and by nine we were on the road.
The Way wound through the outskirts of town and into a countryside of rolling hills, stone walls, cornfields, vineyards, and the occasional small village. It was prettier than the previous days, with more narrow dirt lanes mixed in with the ubiquitous cobblestones and the less frequent tarmac.
We made good time, in spite of an unhurried pace. We chatted for a while with a German couple from Reims who walked with us a few kilometres, and who told us the corn we saw growing everywhere was for fuel rather than food. We also talked later with some Americans at a bus shelter on the edge of the village of Tamel. We offered them our sympathy for their president, and they said they hoped he would soon be replaced. We said we hoped so too.
It was a little before one that we checked into our hotel in Balugães, a small, pretty village surrounded by farmland.
The hotel is beautiful. A walled courtyard with multiple buildings, and best of all, four resident cats. It’s been a good day for us regarding animals. We’ve seen many dogs and cats, and got to pet a beautiful, old black lab while trying to have a conversation with its owner, who didn’t speak any more English than we do Portuguese.
Our room has a king sized bed, stone walls, concrete floor, and very modern conveniences. The courtyard has lime trees scattered around the plush lawn, stone walkways, and numerous places to sit & drink beer.
Tomorrow we leave for Ponte de Lima, a larger town 18 km from here. But for now, sitting in the cool twilight sipping a Cristal and trying to tempt the cats closer is the moment I’m happy to be in.