A Travellerspoint blog




sunny 26 °C
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We have made it over to the west coast are now in Portugal .it was a 4 hour dramatic drive to get here. We started with a supermarket shop in Salamanca to replenish supplies. These seemingly mundane tasks are anything but because of the language problems. We were met at the door by a man begging, and as we had to pay a deposit to use the trolley - he got that when it was returned. We have noticed how the spanish really like eating squid, and saw it on the shelves. Also noteworthy was the size of the red peppers , at least twice the size of ours.

So onto Portugal. The countryside changed so much as we moved through it. Constant was the ubiquitous red poppy on the road side, brick red soil, rosemary and broom. The wild flowers are very pretty. We had to cross a mountain range to get to the coast and went through a vast area that has had massive fires recently. There are lots of gums which seem to be regenerating after the fires.DSCF4832.JPG

The part of Portugal the we have seen is definitely not as lush and productive as Spain. However in saying that their road toll system is the best we’ve come across - electronic, which means I didnt have to guess what tricks it would have in store for me this time.

Our campsite is in Gaia, just on the outskirts of Porto. It is adequate and that is all. We have noticed that the clocks are one hour behind that of Spain, not sure what that is about. However it did mean our day has a bonus hour, which we used to go and explore Porto. It is 9km away so got on our bikes and followed the bike track there.

It reminds me of the town of Whitby in England. Very old houses, all crowded in together tumbling down the contours of the land into the valley.The difference is that the houses have beautifully tiled fronts. The port in front at the river mouth was a treat for Sal and her camera.However huge bridges that are intimidating to someone averse to heights.

The main reason we wanted to come to Porto was to sample the port wines, which is what we did this afternoon.Before we leave we will get to visit a cellar and winery, but today was just tasting. We still have not sorted an itinerary for our time here. So much to do and so little time (as usual). The beach looks great, but today there was a keen on -shore breeze, once out of that, it was hot.

Posted by Sallyj66 23:42 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)


A mixed bag...

sunny 23 °C

We started the day with a nice chat with Rosie. it sounds very cold at home, in direct contrast to the weather here.

As we have done in most major places when we arrive, we decided that a trip on the hop on/ hop off bus is a good way to orientate ourselves to the city. So once again we found a Red Bus Co (choices now of red/yellow or blue). the lovely lady at the information centre had advised us that the inner streets of the city would be closed at lunch time due to a car rally being held there. (Sharyn you would have enjoyed this). Nonetheless we thought it was worth a punt.

Beside Pont Louis major work is being done, it creates a huge bottle neck there, with massive tourist buses, taxis, service vehicles etc etc all trying to get onto the bridge and also trying ( I hope) to avoid the workmen. The bus stop is bang in the middle of this. Traffic in Porto is chaotic anyway, but mostly good natured. We waited for half a hour, yellow and blue buses had been and gone, but no red bus. Sal decided she wanted her money back, got that, and then a red bus arrived just as we got onto a blue one!!

The “mixed bag” part is that this was an awful trip. It was burning hot on the top deck, the circuit was very uninspiring and slow. There are some derelict parts of Porto that we seemed to spend a lot of time looking at. We couldn’t wait to get off the bus in the old part of the city and do our own thing. At this stage we just wanted a drink, however twice were told that the places we had chosen were only for food and not drinks alone. Not very welcoming.

As I said a car rally was scheduled and streets cordoned off and a large Police presence. We heard the roar of loud cars and were at a good vantage point to see the cars come hurtling past. I thought the safety was loose and the crowds crossing in-between cars sometimes narrowly being missed.

Climbed up to the Church 82 steps which gave great views over the port.Then down again ( I am sure there were more going down) to walk over the bridge. Fun time. As we were heading back to our bikes, decided to detour and go and look at a winery in ‘caves’….more steps going up involved!!

Upshot was we never found the caves, but did ‘discover’ Taylors Ports tasting cellar. We had a very informative woman give us a spiel on 5 different ports. It was a very enjoyable experience, especially as I have bought their port before at home. Got a couple of pork chops at the market for tea, then biked back to our campsite. So it was a mixed bag today of some good and then some less successful endeavours. Tomorrow we are going on a small group tour up the Duoro Valley to visit more port wineries, cruise on the river and generally sit back and let someone else entertain us.

Posted by Sallyj66 22:42 Archived in Portugal Comments (1)

Duoro Valley

Sampling Port

sunny 37 °C

The Duoro Valley apparently means “Valley of Hell” which describes the searing heat that is reached in the valley. It got incredibly hot yesterday, which made us very grateful for air conditioning in cars and buildings.

We were pleased with the decision we made about the mode of discovering this region. I was initially keen on getting a boat and sailing the valley, but when investigating it further felt sitting on a boat for 8-12 hours would be too much. Our trip yesterday confirmed this.

One thing that has been an important lesson for us, is reading very carefully what you sign up for on-line. Our expectation was a small group tour and as we waiting for this ‘van’ to arrive, were surprised to see a man step out of a nice Renault car and tell us he was our guide for the day!. We had booked for a private tour. Nothing wrong with that, but different tour expectations.

Phillip (his French name) was our guide. A young man who is a professional driver, drives various state personal around etc. It was obvious he was an excellent driver and I had confidence in him, which turned out just as well as we went over some exorbitantly high bridges.

So, according to expectations, we drove up the Duoro Valley along some very high excellent toll roads, at speed. We upset a lady in a cafe by asking for milk coffee then getting hot milk which apparently (now we know) you ask for “bingo” and get a latte. The scenery is spectacular. There are endless hillsides of terraced vineyards that follow the contours of the land. They seem to be carved into the rock. A few vineyards are in the more usual NZ style with vertical razor sharp rows - these seem to be out of place not in the landscape.

Stopped to see a lock, a 14foot height no less, huge boats go up and down the river. We had made a decision to have an hour cruise on the river from Pinhao, We made it in the nick of time. It was a lovely thing to do, but spending all day would have been far too much.

On the way back we had lunch at a small restaurant. Three courses, a salad, a traditional dish called Tripas that I liked a lot and Sal was indifferent about, then orange cake for dessert.This was accompanied by a red wine (can’t remember name but I liked it) and then a nice tawny port with dessert. It was nice seeing the vegetable gardens growing on the river edge. Following this we joined other groups at Quinta do Tedo for port tasting. This a small winery now French American owned, but we had a great guide and I bought another Tawny and a late bottle harvest port, so we have some to keep us going.

Fast trip home. I have not yet mentioned the bridges. We went over one that was 1 kilometer high bridge, insane height and makes me tingle to think about still. It seems if we went to Lisbon they are about 10km long as well. I think they are probably engineering marvels, but instruments of torture for me. I have a nasty feeling we will encounter more of these on our trip north. Also went through a 5 km long tunnel.

So arrived home exhausted having had our own private tour of the Duoro. Today we head for Santiago, should only be 2 and a half hours drive.

An interesting observation is the number of pohutukawa trees here. On our bus trip the other day a point of interest was the longest avenue of metrosideros trees anywhere, he thought the trees originated in NZ! Some are in flower and they obviously do very well in this climate.

Posted by Sallyj66 22:27 Archived in Portugal Comments (2)

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