Our bags and our bodies were picked up at Pergola House at 10 a.m. sharp on Wednesday morning. We were driven 15 minutes north of Cascais to about three kilometers south of Guinch Beach to begin our walk; our bags were driven all the way to the Convento Sao Saturnino, where we would be spending the next two nights.
This first walk began by the Atlantic Ocean and pretty much paralleled it, at various distances, for the whole day. We walked on sidewalks right by the highway, we walked on the beach right by the ocean, we walked on steep, narrow, rocky trails going up, up, up before going back down, down, down. The day began with a strong, offshore wind, became calm and hotter than hell before ending on a brisk breezy note. I made a wardrobe mistake at the beginning of the walk by not immediately clamping my hat on my head. Instead, I let the hat dangle down my back and, by the time we arrived at Convento Sao Saturnino, my hair resembled a ball of yarn that a cat has had its way with for a few hours.
But, we enjoyed it . . . I think.
Convento Sao Saturnino is located down in a valley in what is supposed to be a protected position. But, if you could hear the wind that I’m hearing at this moment, you could be forgiven for questioning your understanding of the word “protected.” Protected or not, it is a beautiful location and a beautiful lodging. However, due to the fact that it sort of tumbles down the hillside, it is an establishment consisting largely of stairs.
Stairs of tile, wood, and stone. Stairs of varying heights and widths. Stairs that branch off of other stairs. Stairs that twist and head into darkened corners before turning to emerge in the semi-light. Some flights of stairs have hand rails and others do not. From the beginning of the outside entry to the front door: Twenty plus stairs. From the front door to the reception nook, where I am now writing this blog: Five stairs. From reception to the dining room: Four stairs. (At this point, you can take a break, turn right and go down three stairs to the breakfast area where you can prepare yourself an espresso . . . called a bica here in Portugal . . . to steady your nerves) From the dining room to the bar area: Seven stairs. (If the bica didn’t do it, pause here to pour yourself a small ginja to knock back before proceeding) Then one little stair to a tiny landing. From this postage stamp-sized bit of horizontal flooring to the sitting room: Five stairs. (Sit a bit to recover from the ginja. Alternatively, you could peruse one of the many ancient bibles laying about to find inspiration) From the sitting room to a landing/hall: Eleven twisty, shadowy stairs. From the landing/hall to aother landing: Thirteen even more twisty and shadowy stairs. Then up one little stair, then down one little stair, then down one more little stair to arrive, at long last, at: Another hallway and our room. (Collapse gratefully onto your comfy bed and rest up for the climb back to the dining room for dinner at 8 pm. Alternatively, you can pull on your bathing costume, go out the door that is up two stairs and head outside to even more stairs down and up to arrive at the quite lovely swimming pool for a refreshing plunge)
Take my compromised eyesight, throw in a few glasses of wine, one has the making of a personal disaster whenever one has to leave one’s curent location. But luck has been with me so far and in spite of missing the same stair twice in the first evening we were here, I have managed to avoid falling. We leave this morning, so my fingers are still crossed . . . making the passage from the lower levels to the upper (and vice versa) just that much more hazardous!