Another fine morning. The old way lead us away through smaller and smaller streets. Gardens grew larger. Vegetable plots became small market gardens. The rhythmic tak tak tak of hand hoeing replaced the sound of cars. Our path took us into a forest.

For a while we walked all together, lots of laughter and marvelling at the wooded delights. Sean told a story from early in his married life, a trip to Kashmir, I rang the foreign office and they said yes it’s all fine there now, as soon as we got off the plane armoured columns lined the roads. He assured his wife all was fine. The forest returned, but then I was seeing a houseboat on a Kashmiri lake caught in a gunbattle, two English tourists laying on the floor. And then the track and the trees came back again, but it was me who’d wandered off.

A fork in the path appeared, the yellow arrow directing us up towards the next village, a handmade sign to Moinho Garcia, ‘a little paradise’, pointing down a narrower track that took us deeper into the woods. The track became a path, signs every few hundred metres, this way, not far now, undergrowth had to be negotiated, a plank across a stream. We all wondered what we had booked. Finally a pair of gates, the sound of water, and beyond tended gardens, dappled shade, a series of stone buildings alongside a powerful stream, small waterfalls, a welcome host, and it was only midday. The brave took the plunge in the pools under the falls, squeals and shrieks of exhilaration filled the air, and then bodies were warmed in afternoon sun. Sean read to us a quote from DH Lawrence:

The vast marvel is to be alive… The supreme triumph is to be most vividly, most perfectly alive. Whatever the unborn and the dead may know, they cannot know the beauty, the marvel of being alive in the flesh. The dead may look after the afterwards. But the magnificent here and now of life in the flesh is ours, and ours alone, and ours only for a time. We ought to dance with rapture that we should be alive and in the flesh, and part of the living, incarnate cosmos. I am part of the sun as my eye is part of me. That I am part of the earth my feet know perfectly, and my blood is part of the sea. My soul knows that I am part of the human race, my soul is an organic part of the great human soul… There is nothing of me that is alone and absolute except my mind, and we shall find that the mind has no existence by itself, it is only the glitter of the sun on the surface of the waters.

So for a long afternoon and evening, and a night quiet quiet quiet even with the engine of the stream running, this romantic little paradise held us captive.

And all the while in the contemplation of this paradise, as I closed my fingers around it and I saw my dreams of stylishly renovated stone ruins and productive gardens evaporate in the footnotes of the great lost book, Paradise Maintained, a gentle letting go, for having passed this way we must now move on.

Nikolaus, our host, showed us a route to Porto via the coast, swapping the transurban cocktail of suburbs and light industry for pine forests and our first sight of the sea.

We opened the gate and walked up a steep track. The forest quickly fell away, the edge of a village appeared, I turned round and the pleats and folds of trees following hidden valleys gave no sign of where five minutes before we had lifted our bags onto our backs.

Our guide was Maps.me which took us via the roads less travelled, cobbled lanes with the occasional tractor, women with brown tights, long woolen socks, gingham housecoats and souwesters above tanned faces, hoeing and planting. Between villages we skirted fields and walked through plantations of eucalyptus, the forest floor littered with peelings of bark, like the moultings of giant snakes.

We passed through a small town with an extraordinary church, the rector keen to get to his lunch was about to turn us away, which country, ahh inglaterre, my daughter in Green Which, so we got our ten minutes of awe.

We arrived in Ovar, to a swish hostel, and James Mason behind the desk in the tourist office. Yess? We asked the usual questions, eating, drinking, shopping. He answered us easily, and then, sorry? in the effete tones of the old upper middle classes. Your english is very good, have you lived in England? Not really, no. He produced a local map, showing the next day’s route along the coast. West of the land, a safe distance into the sea, an outline of Portugal showed the area covered by this local map. What island is this, said Sean? He peered over his glasses, either bemused or with a tired expression which said, I don’t do humour.

The next day was a glorious maps.me odysee through pine forests, stately slender trees growing up on the last half millenia of sand dunes, until crossing a bridge the sea, the sea, the sea!

As we navigated our way through the outskirts of a coastal town, a bold shadow raced over the ground. I looked up to see a stork circling round, its giant nest of sticks on top of a nearby telegraph pole. The noisy flapping, and stop go animation of its movements transported me to the world of Jason and the Argonauts, and the imagination of Harry Harryhausen. I remained alert.

We were heading to Espinho, a coastal resort, just twenty minutes by train from Porto. As we neared, promenades and boardwalks made the going easy.

Our fourth floor balcony overlooked the elegant underground station. As I looked down I couldn’t quite fathom the engineering that had managed to cover over an epic tunnel or trench and leave behind only broad public concourses, stylish civic buildings, and a sense of untroubled calm.

Ten kilometres of boardwalk and five of cobblestones and roads separated us from a rest day and two nights in Porto.