We woke to grey clouds but no rain and most importantly no puncture – the little bit of expanding rubber appears to be working 🙂
So, after a nice run along the canal and a bit of HIIT exercise we set off to explore what is apparently known as the ‘Venice of Portugal’ …. Aveiro. We found the fish market first and then worked our way round to the main market which appeared to be running a ‘bio’ week with some delicious breads, meats, cheeses and of course fruits and vegetables … One of the things we love about Portuguese markets is that you get the local producers who effectively are selling the produce they grow in their garden, one lovely gentleman parted with an Advocado an onion and a garlic for 1 euro … And not a hint of pesticide in sight.
I think ‘Venice of Portugal’ is a bit of an over estimation – Aveiro is built on canals but although we haven’t been there yet ….. it’s not Venice 😦
To be fair it is a pretty place with beautiful old buildings of all shapes and sizes clad in different coloured tiles – the old station being one of the most attractive examples.
…it must be cheaper and harder wearing to clad a house in tiles than to paint it … Why don’t more people do it in the UK….. perhaps the cold weather cracks the tiles?
Whilst walking through the old town it was obvious that there was a music festival on with lots of musicians in traditional attire sporting every variety of guitar-like instrument you could imagine, all enjoying a nice hog roast and a few beers in between the rain showers!
After not such a good night’s sleep as some idiot was doing donuts most of the night, we set off mid-morning to tackle the windy mountainous roads to get to Guarda where we parked up in a nice little park looking up to the city (Free with all facilities exc. elec. GPS n 40 32’58” w 07 14′ 32″). Guarda is the highest city in Portugal sitting at 1056m and on approach is not exactly what you would call pretty, but when you get to the historic center, it is small, a little rough round the edges but quite interesting.
As we were back at Mika reasonably early, we decided to travel in the afternoon getting to Viseu (Free with all facilities exc. elec. GPS n 40 39′ 53″ w 07 55′ 02″) in time to do the bi-daily bake as the skies opened 🙂
Viseu is a really pretty historic city built on a hill with more churches than you can count. Unfortunately, it was raining heavily most of the time we were exploring it so we will have to come back to see it in the sunshine.
As we had 50km of cycle path on our doorstep I checked out the first part for my run and found some beautiful houses with fantastic views…. The city certainly doesn’t lack money and we will definitely be back to cycle the valley as the scenery was stunning.
Finally we come to the reason why we came back to Portugal …. The Douro – and probably more importantly the regions produce…… Our first stop was Lamego where we stayed at a fantastic little privately owned Aire looking down over the town nestled between a wine producer and the Sanctuary. The owner at Camping Lamego ((13 euros exc. elec. GPS n 41 05′ 29″ w 07 49′ 18″) was really friendly and helpful and although I have never been a massive fan of Alsatians, the one who lived here just couldn’t have enough cuddling – he was lovely, if it wasn’t for the quantity of fur and his size, I could have happily taken him with us in the Motorhome.
The sanctuary was very similar to Bom Jesus and equally as impressive, enjoying views over the rest of the town and the multiples of churches that it contained.
As Lamego is famous for its sparkly wine we stopped in the bar at the Aire to enjoy a couple of glasses before finishing the rest of the bottle with Fajitas later that evening :). I would say that the Brut is as good, if not better than any Champagne I have tried – although possibly that is due to lack of champagne tasting opportunities 🙂
Getting ready to leave Lamego I put the GPS for our next destination into the Sat Nav and it said that it was in the middle of the Douro river ….. possibly we should have taken it as a sign.
15km and about 45 minutes later we had worked our way through some of the Douro hills with vineyards covering every inch of land around us. As the first sights of the River Douro came it was obvious why it has been in the news so much over the last couple of weeks – it is probably twice the size it should be and possibly 5m higher.
The Aire (3 euros inc. elec. GPS n 41 09′ 46″ w 07 47′ 32″) was positioned just below the pedestrian bridge (on the right in the photo above), which I found out actually marks the highest level on records…. Back in 1909.
Despite the rain falling, the water level was dropping when we arrived and in a couple of hours it had probably dropped 2m, then in the following 24 hours another 2m although it did rise a bit in the middle which made us a little anxious.
Keeping an eye on the water level we headed into town to continue our tasting spree…. Finding a little place to try out some of the more local Port wines rather than the better known brands we found in Porto. We only learnt during this visit that it was only upon the entry into the EU in 1986 that the organisations who owned the vineyards outside Porto could actually sell their Porto wine. Previous to this, only the few larger organisations such as Croft, Taylor’s, Sandemans and Kopke could actually sell Port wine, the other (Smaller) producers sold their grape to those who monopolised the industry. This is why we only really know a handful of names (most of which are British owned) in the UK but there are many more that have come into the market in the last 30 years. The government still regulates the quantity of Port wine sold but it is a much more interesting market. Anyone interested may wish to invest in 2015 Port as apparently it is looking like it is going to be a vintage year for both Port and Douro Wine.
As we didn’t want to mix our drinks we only tasted Port wine on Thursday, so decided to go back and try some of the Douro wines which we don’t see much of in the UK on Friday.