Dr. Hoffer's Travel Site This site was last updated 08/04/10
IBERIA2001 #25 Finally Portugal
We leave beautiful Baiona but must head north to Vigo and then south for 32 miles (Marcia) to the border city of Tui (twee) which sits on the Minho (meen-yo) river between Spain and Portugal. Across the river is the fortress city of Valenca (val-len-sa). We stopped in Tui to tour the town and visit the ancient Catedral which has the relics of a saint I can't remember, but he is there. Past the cloister there is a little park overlooking the river across to Valenca. What is unusual is that the church was also used as the fortress and state headquarters in the Middle Ages. After a pleasant coffee (cortado) in the plaza we finally crossed the bridge into Portugal and drove the 38 miles to Viana do (doos) Castelo passing the place where Luis took us to lunch the other day. Once we get there we have to drive up the mountain of Santa Luzia (loo-shee-ah) to get to the Pousada (Portuguese version of a Parador) which is a beautiful old monastery estate with its own church and a panoramic view of the whole valley. We didn't find out until the next day that when you enter Portugal you have to turn your clock back one hour - so for two days at least we were always on time or early for everything. Here in Portugal, they don't eat as late as the Spanish; they usually start around 8:30 to 9:30. So we have had to change our habits. I change quickly and go for an exhilarating run down the mountain and then Marcia picked me up at the bottom and we drove into the town and found the Pra�a Republica. The Cadogan guide recommended the Os 3 Potes (oosh-3-pootes=the 3 pots) where I changed and we sat down in the cutest little place.
It had been a bakery in the 14th century and was converted to a restaurant by an English woman. The English have been very tight with the Portuguese for centuries and many people hear speak English. The owner recommended I try the roasted kid (goat) and I accepted with the caveat that if I didn't like it I could get something else. When I tried eating it, it was all bone and gristle so I asked for the roast pork instead, which was very good. I don't know whether that was just a bad portion or if all kids taste like that. Will have to try it again somewhere else. The whole dinner was wonderful and we had a very delightful evening. After walking around the downtown (down to the river edge) and a glass of port in the Pra�a, we drove back to the Pousada and to bed at 1:30 AM.
Finally got up at noon on this, the 40th day of our trip. What a beautiful view from the Pousada to the city and the river Lima as it enters the Atlantic.
We check out and stop at the Santa Luzia church (photo) which is a stark building on the way down the hill (can be seen from the street scene of the city).
We drive back to the Pra�a Republica and Marcia has lunch while I try to find out why our phones don't work in Portugal. After walking all over to find the PT phone store, and then waiting in line for an hour, the lady finally tells me to call Movistar (Mobi-star) in Spain and sells me a phone card so I can do it. When I reach them they tell me that I can receive calls, send digital messages but am not allowed to make calls. Now isn't that a logical deal! So I have to send a message to another cell phone for them to call me back. Now Marcia and I can only message each other (long distance).
With that over, we head out of town and go east and then south to the city of Braga (Marcia, 35 miles), a previous capital of Portugal. This city has always been the ecclesiastical capital and still is. You have to behave here!
Once we get there, the church bells start ringing and they play songs, one after the other, such that you have little time to talk - they are very loud. We spent several blocks looking for the Se Cathedral, which is the oldest and hidden in a side street rather than at the center of town where all the fountains are. It is a rather pretty place but not the nicest I have seen. The organ in the church is covered with wood carvings and is very ornate and beautiful.
After a coffee and a walk about we (Marcia) drive the short 18 miles south to Guimer�es, the first capital of Portugal, founded by Afonso Henriques, the founder and first King of Portugal (Portucale). We finally find the Pousada de Sta Marinha (mah-reen-yah) di Costa which is also located at the top of a mountain (Penha) with beautiful views of the valley and city. Since it was getting late (we thought) and I hadn't run yet, Marcia set out to get us a table for dinner at the Pousada while I ran down the mountain in the twilight. It was dark by the time I fast-walked back up the hill and got changed in time to meet her in the dining hall. We thought we were late but we were an hour early. After some cava we enjoyed an excellent dinner which we had not expected. After dinner we rejoined to the lounge library area to enjoy a fabulous glass of 20-year-old Port and relax. We got to bed early (really early).
The next morning we were up at 9:30 and toured the monastery and the attached church where there was a wedding going on (one of many we have attended on this trip.) We finally checked out and headed up Mt. Penha (pen-yah) to the top where there is a very nice park with huge boulders lying around like some giant had dropped them there haphazardly. Piled one on another they created nooks and crannies to walk under and we found a little chapel in a cave down below. There is a hotel here as well as a large church (surprise) where a wedding was going on. At the very top is a towering monument to Pope Pius IX. After combing everything we headed down the mountain a different way and the road was very steep and turned into a dirt road before finally hitting pavement (a little scary for awhile.)
We made it into the city of Guimer�es, parked in the main square and after much searching found a place where Marcia could have lunch. Just as I'm taking my first sip of coffee I look through the window across the plaza and see a tow truck in front of our car marked POLIZIA. I dashed across the square and the cops there would not deal with me in English and I couldn't understand what they were saying. After a period of me shrugging my shoulders, the good cop says, "coche papers". I gave him the BMW registration, my drivers license and passport. Then he says "Must pay now, cash. Dies mil." That's 10,000 Escudos or $50. It turns out we parked in a taxi line and they turned us in. I paid with a smile and then moved the car. We won't try that again.
We visited the fortress castle of Afonso and his descendents which was restored such that you could live in it today, very nice. We visited one museum looking to see the 10 foot colossus but found out it was in another museum that closes at 5 PM. Looking at OUR watches, it had just closed (but really was open for another hour). So we headed out of town minus a 50 dollar bill and no colossus. Marcia drove the 47 miles east then south to the small town of Mesao Frio next to the famous Douro River which flows west to empty into the Atlantic at the city of Porto. This the Napa Valley of Portugal where all the grapes are grown for all the port wine sold in the world. Even before they did it in France, this was the first demarcation wine designation area in the world, set up by Pombo in the 1700s. After driving curvy roads through vine-covered mountains, it took us a while to find the tiny little road up to the Pousada Solar de Rede, but once we arrived, what a breathtaking place to stay. It IS a real working winery with grapes all around and looks down into the Douro Valley and the river quietly flowing by (photos). Here you could stay a week without a problem. The scene was joyous because a wedding reception was about to begin. Marcia and I decided to enjoy the pool then relax after a swim before I decided where to run. We finally discover that we have to turn our clocks back one hour. The manager warned me not to run down the hill because it was too dangerous and am I glad I listened to him. He says the drivers are crazy here and there is no place to go on the two-lane road with tight walls on both sides (the next day I saw that he was right). So I ran on the property round and round in circles like a hamster.
We decided this was the most romantic place to eat, with the full moon shining down, and it turns out the food was one of the best meals we have had, especially the Monkfish with rice (photo) - really outstanding and the veal medallions. After dinner we relaxed with a glass of port (produced here and it is wonderful) by the pool overlooking the valley and saw fireworks over the hill. They don't ship their port outside the area so we can't get it back home. We're beginning to develop a new vice. Sad to say we have to leave in the morning and head for Porto, Portugal's second largest city after Lisboa.
So far this is a beautiful country. Except instead of Grazie, Gracias, or Danke, you say Obrigado.
KJH Go To -> NEXT DIARIO #26
Mesao Frio, Portugal
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