A gentle leap forward
My wife and I recently went on a cruise on the Douro River from Porto in northwest Portugal with Madrid as our final destination.
Having read the itinerary in detail, I was rather apprehensive because of the apparent amount of walking involved on shore excursions. I have a new knee and arthritis in several of my lower joints.
My fears were quickly allayed when at the first meeting on the ship our tour leader announced that there would be three walking groups — “green”, “red” and “gentle”, for those who feared too great a pace.
About 12 of us met as “gentle walkers” on the first morning.
We were a motley crew, including a retired professor of medicine with bad legs (which he covered with more braces and bandages than a professional footballer), a retired music teacher with screws in her back, two or three passengers with knee and hip problems and a few other crocks.
Are you getting the picture? Most of us needed walking sticks.
After we alighted from the bus on the excursion, our guide asked what we would like to see and do first. “Coffee!” was the chorus. And that set the pattern. While the other groups toiled up mountainous steps and along tortuous cobbled-stoned pathways to see yet another Madonna or baby Jesus, the “gentle walkers” would amble along while the guide spoke of the history, art, politics and social problems of Portugal, all this punctuated by stops for snacks and coffee. But, fear not, we did see the odd church and historic monument.
At one stage I stopped at a shop and had a view of our group from behind. With their limping, shambling and sideways gaits they reminded me of a gaggle of geese on their way down to the pond. Goodness knows what the other tourists thought.
But we enjoyed ourselves immensely and learned a lot about Portugal, its people, each other and ourselves. We even managed to sleep well at night.
So here’s to the “gentle walkers” of Portugal and to the tour director who created us. Send your 400-word contribution to Follow the Reader: email@example.com. Columnists will receive a lightweight laptop compendium from Catherine Manuell Design with multiple pockets, pen holder and an A4 notepad included; available in a range of vibrant prints including red viper, $89.95. More: catherinemanuelldesign.com.