TRISH TAKES FIVE: Racing along the Portuguese coast
There were two other couples having breakfast in Pergola House, an elegant hotel in the pretty seaside town of Cascais, Portugal. I had a hunch they were also walkers and, being British, it was odds on that they had booked with Inntravel.
This was our third walking holiday with Inntravel, after experiencing their brilliant self-guided walks in Austria and Mallorca. But we've never started the trails with other travellers. Although we wouldn't be walking as a group, we would meet up with them fairly regularly.
Jonathan, the owner of the second hotel, had driven over to Cascais to pick us all up and drop us at the lighthouse of Cabo Raso, the starting point of our day's walk. He would take our luggage onwards to Azóia where we would be reunited with it later that day.
The weather felt very British: misty drizzle which hampered our view of the coast. Jonathan gave us the option of staying in the car with the bags, or opting for a drop-off point a little further on.
All three couples grasped the nettle. We would do the full 10km, with its ascents and descents, expected to take us just over four hours. Jonathan laughed. He was French but, married to a Scot, understood our doggedness in the face of inclement weather.
We would all be eating at his hotel this evening. Chicken or Sea Bream for dinner? We made our choices.
I'm sure our companions won't mind me saying but they were a little older than us. Dougie decided we should set off first. It would be a breeze, to keep in front of the pack and reach the hotel first.
The initial trail took us across Guincho Beach. We plodded along the shoreline, making good progress. The lure of a hot chocolate, however, took us to a beach bar. As we warmed our hands on the mugs, who should we see walking past the bar, but Edward and Rosemary, one of the Inntravel couples. Rosemary was skipping across the rocks like a mountain goat, no need for a restorative cuppa.
Dougie was affronted that we had lost our lead, so we pulled on our rucksacks and headed off. Just a kilometre from the hotel, the Don Quixote restaurant looked enticing so we took refuge again, choosing an odd, but filling, combination of craft beer and warm scones.
Just then, Edward and Rosemary entered the restaurant. They had taken a wrong turning at one point and were now behind us. Rejuvenated by the news, Dougie sank the remains of his beer and we scampered down the valley to the welcoming sight of the Convento de Sao Saturnino. We had arrived first. "Winner, winner, chicken dinner!" Dougie exclaimed.
What of the third couple? Martin and Sally were indeed last but for the surprising reason that they are keen geocachers and had been going off-piste with their GPS in hand, hunting out hidden treasures. Whilst I was exhausted from the long walk, they arrived in Azóia as fresh as daisies.
Dougie and I had met our match.
You can read Trish's blog at www.mumsgoneto.co.uk