After hanging around the north eastern part of Spain waiting for the fridge/freezer to be fitted, we’ve got to know Santiago de Compostela, Muros & Cartona pretty well. This coast’s made up of pine and gum trees, sand dunes, bashing waves & surfers. This time of year, there’s not a tourist to be seen, the weather is perfect 25-30* cool at night, no sign of rain. Nice though it is, we’d had enough of Spain and we’d managed to survive the last 10 days without a fridge with temps above 25*, thankful most supermarkets sell bags of cubed ice! It’s a shame to leave Spain under a bit of cloud, but the truth is, we’ve really enjoyed this north part of Spain, namely the Basque, Cantabria & Galicia, we like it better than most of the Med coast. It’s got forest covered hills, a deep craggy coastline, little known gems of beaches, green fields matched with scrubby bare rock, a mixture of Cornwall and Lincolnshire…it’s all here. And then there’s the pride, the patriotism of a people who breed Spanish Presidents, as most of them come from the north. It’s a great part of Spain, I think we will be back.
Portugal’s had a rough year for forest fires this year, blazing away from June onward. They’re a natural annual hazard, but this year sees record numbers of fires (some allegedly started deliberately) and many deaths, the last time I caught the news it was over 70 dead, hundreds of properties and business’s consumed. It’s seems to be well under control now, but the effects of it are clear to see. Loads of heavy plant & forestry equipment is still visible by the side of the road, mile after mile of burnt up forest, we’ve heard reports of car parks full of cars and coaches burnt up, let’s hope it’s all over for this year.
Diesel in Portugal is general more expensive than in Spain, (Spain €1.10/l-Portugal€1.35/l) so we topped the tank off just before the border, along with loads of other Portuguese registered cars who frequently nip over the border to fill up. The A3 out of Spain takes you over the Rio (river) Minho and drops you directly into the Portuguese town of Valenca, where we have to get off the motorway immediately, because we’re not ‘doing’ motorways in Portugal. The ancient walled town of Valenca is just the place to buy linen, from towels to bed sheets, this place has seemingly a never ending supply.
A bit farther down the coast we find Mont de Santa Luzia, a very ‘new-looking’ basilica perched high on a hill looming over Viana do Castelo. Thankfully we find the funicular, hiding behind the railway station and for €3 return ticket, are transported to the top without much effort. I didn’t fancy taking Charlie up the road route, as it touches 20% gradient in places.
Another €1 each gets you a ticket to go to the top of the dome. Several spiral staircases (one with traffic lights) guide you all the way up to the top, the view is stunning!
We had a tip from a young couple we met many moons ago in France, (Hi Jill & Ian) that the Thursday market at Barcelos was worth a visit, free parking at the local swimming pool just a short walk up the hill. That’s one thing we’ve noticed about Portugal so far…it’s thigh-busting, calf-tightening country, everywhere seems to be at the top of a hill. The free pitch was perfectly sited, among other MoHo’s and campers, and just down the road from the market. Should I say, The massive market!
This huge market is divided up into 4 distinct separate quarters, you can buy just about anything here, from small holding farm equipment, imported fresh produce, live chickens/rabbits/caged birds/clothes/linen etc. But the best bit of the market, was the rustic area, where ordinary folks from miles around come to flog off their home grown ‘allotment’ or smallholding produce and have been doing it since the early 15 century. This is how markets should be!
The Barcelos Cock:
Legend has it that a pilgrim on his way to Santiago de Compostela was arrested in Barcelos for a crime he swears he didn’t commit. Before the Judge, he was sentenced to hang the next morning and was dragged to the cells. The (unnamed) pilgrim’s endless pleading became too much for the jailer, so he was taken that evening to the judges house, where the Judge was dining with friends. The accused finally a chance to speak.
He stood before the Judge and pointed to the fully cooked cock on the table and said “as sure as I am innocent, that cock on your table will crow if I’m hanged” …at that moment, the cock jumped up, stretched it head high and belted out ‘cock-a-doodle-do!’ The pilgrim was freed and the brightly coloured ‘Cock of Barcelos’ has been emblazend into everything connected to Barclelos ever since. In fact it’s matured over the centuries to become a popular Portuguese emblem, to be seen on show in lots of parts of the country.Possibly the Portuguese national bird? One thing’s for sure, we haven’t gone a day without hearing one yet.
An sunny afternoon walk around Braga and we were on to ‘Penha hill and the Guimaraes’. Keeping with a theme, another attraction perched on top of a hill, this time, we’ve a cable car ride, not a funicular to help gain altitude. The MoHo ‘Aire’ is free and right next to the lower cable car station, c/w water and waste services. The appearance of ‘self-appointed-car park attendants is not surprising, a Euro normally sends them packing, but it’s starting to become a repetitive lifestyle choice hazard of living in a MoHo. It’s a serious climb if you want to go up on foot, at 617m, most of it’s steps, up at 50% gradient towards the top. Imagine going up 617m of you home stairs!… you would need to be very dedicated to climb it, or very determined to get to bed. The cable-car ride to the top takes about 15 mins, at €5 return pp a snip. It’s possible to drive up there, but probably costs more than €10 in fuel, so why not let the cable car do the work sit back and enjoy the view.
At the top, hundreds of huge bolders randomly and without care strewn across the landscape, a couple of giants have been playing petanque for hours, not bothering to collect the boules after each game. A natural phenomenon created millions of years ago creates landscapes never seen before, littered with the occasional (un-impressive) church, lovely park and a sprinkling of coffee-come-tat shops, the UNESCO listed area of Penha hill and the view over Guimaraes… spectacular.
We’re a little sad to be leaving this ‘Minho’ area of Portugal. We’ve been very happy here, some great scenery has been ‘shoved past the windows’ and some fantastic stuff has been seen. If this is what the rest of Portugal looks like…bring it on! We’re lovin’ it!
Vianova de Arousa, Spain. n42.57440 w8.82835 Large car park by the sea, No services. Free.
Valenca, Portugal. n42.02832 w8.64250 Water, Free.
Monte de Santa Luzia (beachside car park) n47.73430 w8.87280 Free
Santa Luzia next to river. Official aire. Water, & waste services.
Barcelos n41.53783 w8.61540 Behind swimming pool. Short walk to market Thursdays! Free.
Braga & Bom Jesus, n41.55273 w8.38125. Car & coach park. Quiet at night, busy during the day. Free. Water at top car park.
Have a great weekend.