30.09.2008 - 03.10.2008 25 °C
From Cambados we decided to make our way south across the border to Portugal. An easy enough plan when you look at a map and the train lines, but a completely different thing once you ask someone how to get there! Even with my speaking Spanish, as soon as I said I wanted to get to Portugal no one knew how to get there. The train line actually doesnt cross the border (well it might with a few changes of trains, but there arent many trains, and no one seemed to be able to help). So off we went with no time tables, no idea where we would end up for the night, or how exactly we were going to get to Portugal. A bus from Cambados back to Pontevedra (easy enough), we looked at the map for the next biggest city... another bus to Vigo. From Vigo it started to get more difficult. The lovely (not) ladies at the info desk of the bus office were too busy discussing their shopping list to help me, I had to ask them twice and they told me I couldn't get there. I looked at the map for the first town across the border and asked them if I could get there, apparently YES! Well it would have been easier if they had told me that in the first place. So we were off on another bus to Valença and across the border to Portugal, woohoo!! We stopped off for an hour before our next train (after three buses we were ready for a different mode of transport!). And had a great view back to Spain from the hiltop fort:
Admired the fort itself:
and said our final farewells to Spain (we will be back in a few weeks!):
Our last leg of the day was to Barcelos, home of the famous Cock
Apparently a pilgrim on his route to Santiago in the days of ol was mistakenly accused of theft and sentenced to hang. He told the judge that if the chicken on his plate (which he was about to eat) awoke, then he was innocent. And behold, the cock crowed! and the pilgrim was set free.
It was pretty much an immediate change coming from Spain to Portugal. Not only the culture (and language!), but also the scenery and the day to day life. The buses are older, there are more tractors and such on the roads and a lot more farming, less industry. To give you an example.... to drive the 13km from Barcelos to our next destination, Braga, took an hour on the bus! The thing Ben was missing the most was the Spanish nightlife. In Spain nothing kicks off till after 8pm at the earliest. Our first night in Portugal and Ben was looking out our Pension window "They are packing up all the cafes!!! everyone is going home!!" This was at about 5pm, the time when most Spaniards take their afternoon stroll and have coffee and ice cream (before dinner!) so quite a shock for us! We are slowly getting used to it and making sure that we find somewhere to eat before everything closes.
Braga was a lovely stop for us. We decided to stay two nights to see the city itself but also to take a day trip to some nearby sites. Braga is beautiful, lots of great old architecture. My favourite are all the houses covered in azuelo tiles.
here is another, with a man having a nap on the balcony :-)
and we visited a grand old Portugese mansion which had lovely gardens:
we had a very strange private tour where a man showed us into each room, gave us a card to read in english and then stood in the corner and waited while we walked around. hehehe
Our first day trip from Braga was to Ponte de Lima. I really wanted to go here as it is famous for its well preserved Roman/Medieval bridge. Half of it is 14th century, the other half is real Roman and forms part of the roman way from Braga to Astorga in Spain.
The other reason for visiting Ponte de Lima is that I was getting itchy feet and wanted to go hiking! Ideally I wanted to head to the hills surrounding the town, but unfortunately the tourismo told me I needed a car to get to the tracks. There was an alternative though! So we ended up doing a leisurely 8km walk along the river through vineyards, past churches and between farming properties. It was really nice. And we even got to stop by the banks for a picnic lunch along the way.
In the afternoon we headed back to Braga and had a quick siesta before heading off on part two of our dray trip! I had read of a church up on the hill with a magnificent baroque staircase leading all the way up and wanted to check it out. It is called Bom Jesus and is pretty famous as a religious site in Portugal. It was worth the trip! The first part of the staircase was made up of long stretches, each with a small chapel at the end of it representing a part of the life, death and resurection of christ.
The next part was this crazy staircase that we came to see. It is really beautiful, and being there before sunset was great!
and ofcourse, then there was the church at the top :-)
So our start to Portugal has been pretty good!