Saturday, 22 June 2013

Porto to Santander 2

The last leg of our journey took us North East from Porto, through a national park, over the mountains and into Spain. Here we had been told about some remarkable thermal springs that flow into this pool and into the river. We had a lovely soak and again in the morning, when the steam was still rising. The water temperature was so hot that I had to get out, cool down and then get back in again! It is wonderful to see places like this that are unspoiled, if this was at home it would have broken glass around and some idiot would throw a bottle of bubble bath in they do with the fountains in very sad.

We went back to Vidiago campsite on the North coast of Spain. Followed the path to the caves, it was a bit spooky with only the two of us in there, in the dark. The purple colours and the stillness of the deep rock pools were impossible to capture on film...or pixels...or whatever it is these days!

Our last stop before the ferry was at the Cabarceno safari park. It is the largest wildlife park in Europe on the site of an old mine. Though we didn't visit this time, at €24 we are planning to spend a full day here next year. These photos were taken from the road through the village and it was nice to see that these animals had a very large space to roam around in.

Then on to Santander for the afternoon. This was an extremely hot day and we wandered around the shops that were shut until 16:30. Unfortunately we didn't find the beach, but now we know where it is then next time we will be able have an ice cream! We also stocked up at the Carefour....though we scraped under the 2.1m height barrier.....we found the high vehicle parking on the road around the corner on our way out.

Just some of the 20 bottles of port, several boxes of wine, vodka and a selection of beers....including a crate of Sagres......we are set up for a BBQ ..... When Summer arrives!

Monday, 10 June 2013


With 257 photos taken over 2 days, Porto deserves a post all to itself.....don't worry I won't bore you with all the photos, but it is a beautiful city. We didn't realise quite how big until we took a Yellow Bus tour which included a cruise and 2 Port Lodge tours, with tasting, all for €22. The great thing about this tour was that you could get on and off wherever you wanted and also included the normal bus trip back to our Orbitur campsite at Madalena, an hours journey through the narrow streets from the centre. The local bus ride was an adventure in itself due to the speed which the driver skilfully negotiated the narrow lanes. There is a great beach here in the centre too, lovely destination for a short break.

This advert made us smile...."Join the sexiest paper on earth" ....

The Ribeira section down by the river is a warren of narrow streets and steep steps up to the centre. Washing still hangs out from upper floor balconies and many restaurants crowd the river bank. We stumbled across this little gem, cafe with the red doors below, tucked away in an ally just off the name but if you can find it then order the Bolinhos de Bacalhau, a local fish cake we watched the lady make, absolutely delicious!

These boats used to be used to transport the barrels of port from the Upper Douro vineyards down to the port area here, but now they are just used during regattas by the Port companies and lorries are used to move the port.

The river Douro flows 576 miles from Spain to the Atlantic here. In the upper Douro valley grapes are grown in what was the first ever demarcated Port region and it is now recognised as a Unesco World Heritage Site.
The river cruise took us under the 6 bridges, one of which was built by Gustave Eiffel in 1877.

Vila Nova de Gaia is on the opposite bank to Porto and is where all the port is blended and left to mature in the barrels. The maritime climate makes ideal conditions and also it is shaded here until late in the afternoon. We toured the Calem and the Graham's lodge and tried out a selection of their port. There are now several bottles stashed away in Libby for drinking later.

Like any city it has its share of dilapidated buildings and graffiti, though we did find the streets very clean.

Below is a statue to the Luso-British Forces. It is a lion crushing the French eagle which celebrates the victory in the Peninsular wars. Maybe this old alliance is why the Portuguese people are so friendly towards the British tourists today. We have found welcomes and smiles everywhere.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Peniche to Costa Nova

At Peniche the headland sticks out into the ocean and it was even windier than ever, we did see a few brave vans parked up here. Also some fishermen were perched on the edge of a sheer cliff edge, not sure if the fish would hang on while they reeled it up the 100 foot cliff! We drove around the coast to Baleal and watched some surfers and went a walk over the causeway to wander around the narrow streets and white washed houses.
Then on up to Nazare, a traditional fishing village with a marvellous beach, where earlier in the year an American Surfer was towed out to surf a 100m wave before it crashed into shore. The large waves here are a result of a deep water trench just off the coast, which then shallows rapidly only meters from the shoreline. In certain weather conditions this produces exceptionally large waves. They were certainly crashing in whilst we visited, but not quite so big!
The little funicular railway took us from Nazare up to Sitio at the top of the peninsular for a couple of Euros. Here we got fantastic views of the sweeping bay below.

The classical image of Portugal is these fishing boats on the beach, which used to be hauled ashore by a team of oxen. We only saw them in this area though as many have now be replaced by modern boats and the old ones seam to decorate several town roundabouts!
In Nazare we also saw fish being dried on wire racks and many of the older generation dressed in traditional costume. Instead of mending nets the fish wives were trying to rent us a room, obviously more profitable, how times have changed.

At Sao Pedro de Moel, near to Marinha Grande we stayed at a campsite and chilled out for a couple of days. Tim even managed to put the hammock up for a few hours rest! Though we did cycle 10 miles to Praia de Vieira and had a scrummy sardine lunch while watching the waves crash ashore. The road was one of the straightest and with a great cycle track the whole way, but it just went on and on and on.....

At the end of the cycle track was a market place and these lovely candy striped houses.

As we had some tickets to use up for Orbitur Campsites we chose the next one up at Praia de Mira where there was a kite flying competition. The local children had made them out of paper and string and they where flying very well in the strong breeze. Some of the fishing boats shown above were here and the fishermen sorted the fish out on the beach. Some of it was quickly auctioned off and several of the locals were filling carrier bags with the smaller fish that had been discarded into the sand.

We hadn't planned to stay at Costa Nova, but it was a glorious Sunday and we found a small craft market taking place. We stopped and bought some biscuits from two sisters who also had some lovely handmade bags and purses for sale. They have a blog here.
The town is well known for its candy striped houses, each beautifully painted and full of character. We bought Dorado and prawns from the market as well as some lovely bread. The Portuguese rolls and bread have been tasty, especially for our pick nick lunches.

Now off up the coast to Porto.