Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Into Portugal, back to Spain

Onto the freeway. Turns out to be a toll road! We stop to buy a map, get off at the first opportunity to drive the secondaries and see the countryside.
I love driving winding roads. Elke pilots us up, down and around through more Eucalyptus forest at what seems to be an incredible pace (it is) after 3 weeks of walking. I spy mushrooms growing on the road edge!
There are a lot of Horreos in this part of Spain and so many differences in style and construction. I muse on making a collection (photographically of course!).... and let it go. I'll just enjoy them as I see them.

The villages in the valleys away from the main roads show evidence of old farming ways.
There is still time to access that information should any one want it and I wonder about setting up some kind of tour... or school...

Driving into A Caniza, we are challenged by the minimalist map. I spy some baskets so we stop and walk about and find the turn off sign for the next piece. We've made a commitment to drive the "green" roads, the scenic routes. I take pictures of bells and the baskets just before everything closes for the midday break.

Onward along narrow roads over mountains into valleys and (I imagine) forgotten little communities where grapes, olives, oranges, apples and the ubiquitous cabbage "trees" grow in every garden.

In the north a river separates Portugal from Spain. Citania de Santa Tegra sits at its mouth, a prehistoric village on a mountain. A series of switchbacks up and a wander around on top, the view somewhat limited by the weather.
With crosses, (a church), prehistoric ruins, microwave and hydro towers I find it a strange juxtaposition of ancient and modern, sacred and profane.

Imagine, 3000 people living that close together, why up here?

Into Portugal, no border crossing, many sculptures and a crazy driving scene in the first town. More winding roads, rural scenes, forest and farm. The roads seem a little wider, similar vegetation (the ever present Eucalyptus for instance) and we make good time stopping in Braga as dusk descends. First we find a hotel next to three churches (bells galore). Then check out the nearby restaurants for the Portuguese cuisine and watch folks promenading around the fountains and sculptures.
In the morning the bells are ringing (it's Sunday!) In spite of the rain we explore around the town. I love the variety and colours of tile work on all the apartments and details in plaster.
Porto is an even bigger city. Free parking on Sundays! Mosaics on churches, tile fronted apartments, funky staircases out back and occasionally a unique manhole cover (for my collection). We take the streetcar to explore. More mosaic in the train station and lotsa statues everywhere.

Without any prep we seem to pick some great locations. Aveiro has canals, boats and tiny tiled houses. Each boat has a story painted on it to do with man's pursuit of women, definitely a male's perspective.
We spent the night in an old hotel, where the concierge came out into the street and lowered the price after we checked out a few other places.

In the morning we get lost looking for the way south due to detours. It was entertaining to ask a policeman directions and have him send us down a one way road the wrong way.
Getting to the beach finally, it is awesome! Very windy and standing in the surf I am nearly sucked out to sea with the undertow.

Driving on at various times I spot, beside the highway, standing alone (or sitting) young women dressed kinda provocatively.... in the middle of nowhere so to speak... hmm?

I take a wrong turn and in order to return to the road we follow along behind a truck full of men (In the back) they're looking at us strangely as the truck turns off to enter ... a prison.
I get tired fast of driving around in circles in towns with narrow one way roads going up or down between old buildings looking for accommodation. Walking around is somewhat better, no one behind leaning on the horn and the choice of left, right, back or forward. With not many hotels to choose from we splurge on a 3 star establishment.
Wandering we find an inviting looking restaurant (not open) and the market which we visit in the morning. It was decorated with beautiful tile work, more examples of the North Line Tiles. Very few restaurants are open, we have Chinese food and drink too much wine.

The highway into Lisbon is confusing, many exits, all in Portuguese of course. Somehow we managed to pass through and around and around after only one false start.
A pleasant drive to Setubal where we had lunch on the waterfront near a large display of painted dolphins(ala whales and bears in Victoria) then onto a ferry across the river mouth.

The peninsula there has a large tourist resort which we avoided, instead stopping to photograph another stork nest.
Further south I shout out, "a coke ork!" on spotting my first Cork Oak. I'd been anticipating this for years! Since a school project on Portugal to be exact. Elke laughs hysterically.

Randomly Elke picks Albufeira for our last night in Portugal. The road in, down to the "beach" is narrow, steep and one way. When the hostel we are looking for turns out to be closed for the season, a nearby woman sends us to a restaurant where the owner rents out rooms, reasonably too.
This is totally a tourist town, pricey hotels, gift shops galore and most everyone speaks English.
Wandering we're accosted by men attempting to entice us in to each eating establishment. Elke is charmed by one fellow and we have dinner and drinks while watching the parade. A vigorous night scene, hearing live music, we work our way around the musicians set up between three or four bars and have another drink, while a constant stream of family vacationers negotiate the narrow passageway.

It was windy and raining in the morning, the beach deserted except for a hardy runner. A quick tour of the vistas and storefronts, some photographs and we exit the town following the coast
searching out one last glimpse of the sea before driving around in circles attempting to avoid Seville.

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