I am so sorry, my friends, that while Hubby and I have been meandering in Portugal, I have not found my way back to the blog to write a post. I hope you have been following me on Instagram where I have been trying to post snippets of our trip daily. Not everything, of course. I’m saving some good stuff for the blog.
After Lisbon we picked up our car and drove to Coimbra. Not without a few glitches. Like how to operate an unfamiliar GPS, and how to avoid tolls. We’d been told by the attendant at Avis that we needn’t think about tolls because it was all taken care of, our car had an electronic pass, she said. Except she neglected telling us how to access the appropriate lanes So we sailed onto the highway, and when we exited, we ended up paying $60.00 Euros for a half hour drive. The penalty, we learned, for not having an exit ticket. Ack. At this rate we’d have to remortgage the house to get around. I tried calling Avis for advice on which lane was which with no luck at any of the numbers provided. So we took all small roads to our destination and found my iPhone ap much better help than the GPS. A German man at our accommodation finally explained how to negotiate the green lanes and NOT end up paying tolls.
But, you know, now that we know how to negotiate the appropriate lanes, we’re not taking the big roads anyway, so we’ve decided not to worry. Water under the bridge. Or money down the drain whichever way you look at it. The GPS has ended up not being worth the money, because I’ve been able to use my iPhone everywhere. We only paid for the GPS as a kind of belt and braces strategy. Because in Italy there were a couple of days when I did not have a cell signal when we were on the road. And since we are planning to drive through mountainous areas this time we thought that a GPS was a prudent expense.
Coimbra was lovely. We walked around and explored it up and down, including the historic university, on the one day we had there. Hot and hilly is what I remember most. But beautiful. I will write a more detailed post when we get home about where we stayed. Oryza Guest House was wonderful. As was the fabulous meal we had one night at a nearby restaurant. I want to repay the favours showered upon us by some accommodations by linking them in a fulsome post about Portuguese hospitality.
I think it’s interesting to note that the places where we stay are always as important to me as the sights we see. That’s why we spend so much time finding accommodations which will suit us… we hope. Older hotels, apartments in historic areas, a few rural places like where we are staying now just outside the Peneda-Gerês National Park, make our trips more memorable. I know that many won’t agree and say that a guesthouse or hotel is just a place to sleep. But not for us.
But that more detailed post will have to wait until I am working on my big computer. At the moment, as I said in my Lisbon post, I have about an inch wide window in which to compose, once the keyboard on my iPad mini is activated. Hence my not noticing that I’d said we visited Sinatra, instead of Sintra, when we were in Lisbon. Ha. So please excuse the occasional proofreading glitch.
After two nights in Coimbra we headed for Porto and an apartment right in the thick of things.
The apartment where we stayed, on a cobbled hilly street, had a huge second- floor terrace where we had our glass of wine each night and watched the action below in the cafes and wine bars. Then we left the youngsters to their revels and closed our soundproof door and windows. Ha.
Hubby had a health issue in Porto, a hugely swollen foot, so painful he could hardly walk. But the company who owned our apartment had an emergency number, and the lovely girl on duty sent us a doctor within an hour. Seriously. A doctor doing house calls. We had to pay, of course. But the prescription he wrote fixed Hubby right up in a couple of days. And my pharmacist sister to whom I texted the name of the medication said that the young doctor’s recommendation was spot on. Always nice to have a consulting pharmacist only a text away, folks.
We were charmed by Porto. Me especially by the beautiful cobalt blue Azulejos tiles. And the Mercado do Bolhão, where we had the best coffee and bought treats for our supper.
We walked a bit on our first day, but Hubby was in a lot of pain. So we took a slow day after that when I did a laundry and he napped and rested his foot. You know, even the laundromat was lovely in Porto. The attendant could not do enough to help me. When I thanked him profusely as I was leaving with all our clothes washed, dried, and folded, plus some quality book time under my belt, he said to be sure to tell everyone in Canada that Porto laundromats are the best. So I have.
Our last day in Porto we walked the big bridge to the other side of the river, toured a port cellar, and walked lots more. Then we had dinner out. We’d cooked for ourselves the other nights. We don’t mind cooking for ourselves when we travel. And usually plan to do it about half the time, if we can. That way we can get an early start to our daytime adventures, and collapse with a nice glass of local wine, and a relaxed supper when we get “home.”
That’s one reason we have enjoyed the outdoor spaces of our accommodations so much. The rooftop terrace of our Lisbon apartment, the peaceful courtyard in Coimbra where we had an after dinner drink late one evening, and the huge terrace-balcony we had to ourselves in Porto.
But as interesting and vibrant as Porto was, it was quite crowded at times. And we are sighing with relief to be here in Sobredo, on the edge of Peneda-Gerês National Park at Casinhas da Levada. We are drinking in the quiet, and the old stone buildings, some of which are derelict, and the beautifully rebuilt farmhouse which we are calling home for three nights. How were we lucky enough to find this place?
Yesterday we’d planned to hike, but the heat, and the warnings of our host about lack of shade on the hills, made us change our mind. So, instead, we had a wonderful drive through tiny old villages, on twisty mountainous roads, ate a picnic lunch, and came home early for a swim. Travel at it’s finest, as far as we’re concerned.
Now I must go. We’re going for a final swim, uncorking the wine, and thinking about what we’ll have for supper. Tomorrow we head out for the Douro Valley.
Take care, my friends. I hope I’ll be able to post again before we head for home. But if not, I’ll make up for it when I’m back in Manotick. Where, after the laundry is done, I’ll be packing away my summer clothes, and finally thinking about fall blazers and boots. Sigh. xox