Portugal from Monday 19 to 24 August 2013

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August 20th 2013
Published: August 29th 2013
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Portugal from Monday 19 to 24 August 2013

We thoroughly loved Portugal, the people, the extensive and effective highway/freeway system, the rugged coastal scenery with sandy coves, the castles and fortresses on the coasts perched up on cliffs, the food, the colourful tiles on walls (with a predominance of blue on white), the white-washed villages, particularly in the southern Algarve region, the mountains, fields of citrus fruit, vineyards, wheat paddocks, sandlewood plantations are all features to love.

What we didn’t like was the tolls, both at the booths and overhead cameras (the latter of which we haven’t paid yet as we didn’t get an electronic metre for our car!!!!).

We found most people spoke English so it was very easy for us.

We spent time driving through the Douro Valley where they grow grapes for port and wine. This was the route we took after leaving Salamanca in Spain to drive to Porto, the 2nd largest city in Portugal. The hillsides were completely covered with crops.

We stopped at Viseu for lunch as well as called into their Municipal Office to ask about the overhead electronic tolls which they advised us to go to a web site (which we did later but no payment facility was obvious). The town had many walls with blue and white tiles once again, a real feature of Portugal.

We arrived in Porto later in the afternoon. As usual, we did a drive through this large city which has 250K people. Ever since the Romans built a fort here, at the mouth of the Douro River, Porto has prospered from commerce. Today it is a thriving industrial centre with many bridges over the river and with sprawling suburbs. We saw the cathedral on the hill overlooking the river.

As we couldn’t find a suitable park we decided to go to our camp site which was 12 kms from the city. Campismo da Madalena was near the beach and the facilities were a bit ‘tired’ and the camp was very dry and dusty. The people at reception weren’t very friendly, which is the 1st time we have struck that. We set up the camper and then went for a walk down the beach. We had a cold beer at a little café on the beach and watched the sunset.

After having dinner at the camper, our neighbour, a Frenchman Michele, offered us some of his ‘special’ veno. It wasn’t too bad. We had a good old chat and we learned about a town he highly recommended - Guimarars which was NE of Porto.

The next morning we decided to drive through Porto again, still no parks so we went onto Guimarars which was 80kms away. We loved this town.

We too highly recommend this town. And the camp site is also on top of the hill where one of the churches was built. This hill has massive granite boulders everywhere. They have built all the picnic tables and chairs from granite.

We had no trouble finding a park which was next to the fortress. We visited the Ducal Palace with its numerous tapastries, artifacts, period furniture, and other museum items. Rooms were set up as they were used in years gone by. It was fascinating. We walked around the town for a couple of hours stopping for coffee, then a cold drink at different street-side cafes. We then caught the Teleferico going up to Penha at Guimaraes. This was where the camp site was. We had heard the road was narrow and windy so Tom wanted to check it out 1st. We got good advice from the manager of the camp site so we caught the teleferico back down the mountain and drove our camper up the hill. All the staff at this camp site were extremely helpful. Tom even needed some washers as he was fixing the headrest in the camper so the manager gave him 3 boxes of spare bits and pieces to look through. He found exactly what he wanted.

The area at the top of the hill was a popular picnic spot. There was a café, icecream van, people playing musical instruments, people dancing to the music…a hive of activity. We soaked it all up!!

In the evening, I walked to the church and watched the sunset..beautiful.

We loved Guimaraes. It was really easy to get around, there were incredible history displayed and the people were all very friendly and helpful. All good stuff!!

The next day we drove onto Lisboa (Lisbon in English).

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