(Me with a little cuttlefish for company).
I am sometimes asked if I ever feel bored or lonely when I travel alone.
The answer is no.
I am a selfish traveller and love having the freedom to decide where and when to go and what to do when I’m there (which may simply be to sit and sip coffee lost in my own thoughts or drink wine and eat nice food)
But do you not feel odd eating alone? They ask when I mention the food bit.
Not at all! Sure don’t I have my cuttlefish or clams or sardines for company.
Plus I’m a *dab (pardon the pun) hand at eavesdropping on the other diners.
There is a rumour going around (started I think by my mother ) that I have brought the yellow bicycle on holidays with me.
But other than the idea vaguely crossing my mind and glancing nostalgically at the over sized luggage check in Dublin airport (because once I really DID take my bike on a plane) there are no grounds to her story.
I have no bicycle with me.
I am going to walk instead.
And walk I do.
Up steps and down steps.
I never realized a town could have so many of them.
Of course the description of the hotel I have chosen should have given me a clue.
‘Hotel Sant Roc sits high above the town on rocky hill top’.
So every evening, if I want to reach my bed, I have to climb one hundred or more steps.
Thank goodness for phone cameras!
They are my decoy. The saviour of my dignity! because of COURSE the only reason the plump granny (me) now half way up the steep steps is stopping, is because she has just seen something of interest to take a photo of. (The fact she is out of breath, has nothing to do with it).
And while I am on the subject of steps I note, that some people are not just content to bound past me.
No! they really have to rub it in. On reaching the top they turn and run furiously back down.
And then, wait for it!, On reaching the bottom again they turn and take the steps back up two at a time. (without once having to stop to take a photo). They often repeat this process numerous times before finally trotting off smugly.
To ease my eyes from the activity, I look out to sea only to see a bunch of swimmers arms flailing making their way out across the ocean.
Happily my real reason for this holiday is to eat fish and made hungry by observing all this exercise, I head down hill in search of lunch.
‘They’ say a full restaurant is a sign of good food.
I say an empty one is.
Especially one where the proprietor is chatting to a friend and is in no hurry to acknowledge me, let alone offer me a menu. He is clearly confident that I understand my wait will be worthwhile.
Even still when he eventually does stroll over, I give him my best smile hoping that by showing my teeth, he will see I mean business.
A French couple stroll past and glimpse at the grilled razor clams that have arrived in front of me and within minutes they are sitting nearby ordering a large jug of sangria and some food.
An American couple spots the plates of grilled monk fish landing in front of the French couple and after consulting each other sit just behind me.
A group of four linger and sniff the air and find themselves a table.
and soon the restaurant is buzzing.
I only have to stop three times to take a photo of the pounding sea on my way back ‘home’
The next morning I note a twinge in my knees.
I blame it on those steps.
Now I am no stranger to exercise. I walk lots. I cycle and in the last two years I have taken to lifting weights (my youngest two grandchildren) but steps are not part of my exercise and my knees are letting me know.
I know the cure. I must find sardines.
Down I go again.
Of course I can’t spend my day just eating so, to pass the time, I walk to the next village by the costal path (more steps) where I find to my horror there is some sort of triathlon taking place.
Loudspeakers are shouting instructions and men in boats are laying out floatable markers in the sea.
Racing bikes are stacked against walls. Lithe people some in lycra, some in wet suits are standing around nonchalantly swinging their arms like windmills. (I saw one tall lad in running shorts, who, whilst stretching one leg out on the wall the way runners do, was lighting up a cigarette.)
The energy is contagious and I find myself I picking up my pace and walking briskly to the end of the promenade.
At the end of the promenade is a small café where a few lazier souls sip their ‘café amb llet’ and, with their dogs sitting calmly beside them, read the papers or gaze out to sea.
I join them, sitting between the well behaved mutts.
Some quite fancy. (The mutts that is).
The way back is definitely easier or maybe I am getting fitter or maybe its the thought of lunch that is putting a spring in my step.
I only have to stop twice to take a photo and that’s because at one point curiosity got the better of me and I trot down some steps off the path just to see where they are going. (They land in the ocean)
Back in the village at the first small cove, a restaurant is preparing itself for the lunch, shaking out its awnings while the waiters in their traditional fishermen’s garb of blue hemp trousers and leather braces are organizing the chairs.
Without even checking what was on the menu I take a seat.
I just know they will serve sardines.
My knees sigh in anticipation
On the way home I only have to stop once to take a photo
The next morning I decide I will give my knees a rest and take the car.
I stop on the outskirts of a small hill top village.
Peratallada was once an important bustling medieval village. It is interesting to first walk its circumference following the now dry moat that surrounds it.
And although the draw bridge is long gone, the only gateway to the town still stands and leads to the narrow winding streets of worn cobbles, smoothed by millions of footsteps over the centuries.
There are few tourists at this time of the year so I can explore in comfort.
The town is not far from the sea but in its heyday the distance would have been too great to lug fresh fish to.
luckily for me this is now and there is plenty of fish on the menu.
And though part of me knows I should really dip in to some of the traditional fare of sausage and beans I choose the seafood.
Of course no steps mean no stopping for photo’s.
well maybe just one!
My last day and I am exploring Sa Tuna. A tiny fishing village to the north.
I immediately feel at home.
My knees have recovered and too early for lunch, once again I trot along the coastal path. Up the steps and down the steps and, even though I find I no longer need the excuse of taking photos in order to have a rest, I stop just for old times sake.
And take two
Retracing my steps I get the distinct feeling I am being followed!
But maybe she is also just on her way to lunch.
*Dab= a small flat fish.