The so called "state of calamity" ends tomorrow. On May 4, Portugal transitioned from the "state of emergency" to a "state of calamity", ending May 18. To me, calamity seems worse than emergency, so something is lost in translation, I think. The state of calamity is the first stage of Portugal's desconfinamento (literally, disconfinement). It seems "emergency", especially when declared as a state within society, is a bit like using the word "love" - interpreted differently by the society declaring that situation. Unlike North America, where the provinces and states each determine the unique rules for life under the state of "emergency", Portugal was united in that every part of the country had to adhere to the dictum FIQUE EM CASA, posted on signs everywhere. In brief, other than for getting food or medical attention, or short periods of exercise, it was mandatory to remain in the house or on your property. Being Portuguese, the streets were empty, the parks were nearly cleaned out. No Trump-style questioning of the experts, no protests.
Portugal has done the best in Europe with numbers low throughout the pandemic. Over the two weeks of this first stage of normalization, numbers have gone from 25,500 to 29,000. Not bad for two weeks. Masks are ubiquitous and masks are required for any interior space. We have had universal kindness from everyone. Restaurants are only open to take out (only some open, most are closed) and we've had only the most welcoming and warm contact with those serving us, grateful for the business. We're still anomalies, being the obvious foreigners. For a country with tourism as the number one industry, it feels strange to stick out as tourists.
After Viana do Costelo and Aguçadoura, we bike to the epic and stunning Douro River valley, the home of port. This large river system runs east to west from Spain to the Atlantic, with the city of Porto at the mouth of the river. After the Tejo which runs through Lisbon (or Tagus, the English name), the Douro is the #2 river in the country. We're currently in Régua, a major wine/port centre, the home of many Port brands familiar worldwide. Neither of us are that into port, but when in Rome... Like the wine here, amazing port is cheap cheap cheap. A good bottle might cost 5-6 euro.
The entire valley, from river to hilltops is terraced vineyard and olive groves. Kind of like the prairies of Canada, except not flat... and not grains... Ok, not a great comparison. As far as one looks, there are grapes growing in precise rows, surrounding quaint stone "quintas". The quinta can be translated as estate or farm, or best as a combination of the two terms. A quinta is a complex of grape processing buildings, employee quarters, barns, and various outbuildings. Many have restaurants and wine tasting areas - all closed now. We decided to settle here for a week, to wait out the end of the "state of calamity", renting a super sweet house on the bank of the Rio Corgo, one of the many tributaries of the Douro.
And today, it was hike time.
On May 18, restaurants and cafes open for sit down meals. More stores open. Bikes are permitted on trains. Stage 2 of desconfinamento. Maybe a lesson for Canada. We are back on the road, to Aveiro for 3 nights, a city on the coast south of Porto. There are some big miles on the bike for the home stretch back to Lisbon (about 260km). Our return flights back start on June 12, and it's still not clear how we're getting home since both Air Canada and Pacific Coastal have canceled all June flights to Haida Gwaii. The reentry process is complicated, with specific (and changing) rules for Canada, BC and Haida Gwaii. It deserves its own blog post, so stay tuned.