Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Hello Portugal!

Arrived in Viana do Castelo on a river just south of the Portuguese border and had some difficulty docking due to very strong currents. After a nice walk through the village we took a train with the whole crew (Elena, Mjolner, Pjotter) to the top of the hill. The view was fantastic and the cathedral at the top of the hill spectacular. The look and feel of the village was completely different that just over the border in Spain. The architecture is more elaborate, the streets are extremely clean and almost everybody we have spoken to speaks impeccable English.

We are, however, trying to be very careful to replace our broken
Spanish with our even more broken Portuguese. You only need to receive one really offended glare in Portugal after saying 'gracias' before you switch over to 'obrigada' ('obrigado' if you are male).

From Viana de Castelo, we rented cars with the Elena crew to drive up into the Parque Natural da Peneda GerĂªs. After a one hour drive into the hills we stopped in the village of Lindosa. The entry of the village is covered in old stone espigueiros, used for storing produce elevated to keep it dry and rat-free, and a large rambling castle ruin. The village itself is comprised of little stone streets made into tunnels by the grape vines draped across them keeping it cool and pleasant even in the >30 degree piercingly hot sunny weather. The centre of the village houses a natural spring and stone basin used for laundry and drinking water and a metal cup hangs from the waterfall there. We used it to taste the fresh and cold spring water, delicious! On we went through the hills for one of the most beautiful drives I have ever taken. We ended in a little village with hot spring pools located just next to the cool fresh river. We all had a good swim in the cool and long soak in the warm and the little monkeys had a wonderful time splashing about. A great day!

Our next stop was about 20 nautical miles down the coast in Povoa de Varzim. Povoa has a big open harbour with more boats on land than along the docks in the water - the majority with a Portuguese courtesy flag, thus not from the area. It is in this port where you begin to really see the 'stayers.' Either people who simply abandon or try to sell their boats because the cruising life doesn't agree with them or people who have fallen so in love with the Portuguese way of life that they stay a year or more. The guest book in the harbour is full of woeful messages of good-bye from people who are heading on after 6-7-8 month stays and more. We moved on after only 2 days.

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