02.10.2008 - 12.10.2008 26 °C
Well, time has really passed and we have really let the blog go! We have uploaded photos along the way but have been stopping in quite a few small places in Portugal with lots to do a little time!
Portugal is really a completly unique country, and travelling in the north has been completly different from anywhere else we have been.
Our next stop was Guimarães, now a small town but known as the founding capital of Portugal.
The historic centre was beautiful, with plenty of winding streets. The highlight though was a steep walk up a hill where there was a historic mirador and cathedral.
We definatly needed a beer once we got to the top
Rather than walking down the slippery paths, we took the Telerifico
Then we were on to our next major stop since Santiago, Porto
As soon as you arrive you can see how beautiful the city is, based around the Douro River the city climbs up steeply from the river creating a very picturesque city
We had found a brand new hostel online and decided to turn up and try for a room, this would be our first hostel for the trip and we were looking forward to having access to a kitchen!
The hostel was great and was across the road from a historic theatre so was themed on Movies, we were lucky to get a huge double based on Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
Or so we thought, after going out all day and buying some food to cook for dinner, we got back to a very nervous hostel owner. His co-partner had accidently given us a room that was already booked, and they other guests turned up only 30 mins after we left for the day. So even though we had already paid they had moved our luggage into the only available room. Which happened to be a 4 bed dorm! With much appoligising they showed us the room which they had pushed the two bunks together in the middle of the room, which took up the entire room leaving pretty much no room the move around, after walking around all day we were suitably pissed off! We told them we would think about it as we had hoped to have the double room, 5 mins later the guy brings back our money and says we can have a full refund if we like, so we decide leave the place if we can get another place. So we walk around for 1 hour and every is booked out! In the end the decide to charge us the dorm price each but we get the room private, and we get the double room on the last night for the dorm price! It worked out well!
On our first day we climbed the tower of a Cathedral, which is actually the highest tower in Portugal, they view was fantastic and was a great way to get our bearings!
Porto was predictably touristy, but as soon as you got away from the main sights you could find some great areas
Everyone knows Porto for its Port, and it really is a great experience to tour the port houses across the river in Gaia
Rishi was very excited
First off we went to Calem, its not as well known but we had read it had some great cellars
The tour was very intresting and the old cellars were great to explore, then onto the tastings! Unfortunatly they give you the crap stuff! I think we had the Reserva Tawny which is only 5 years, it was smooth but had no real flavour, we then tried the white dry port, which was intresting but didnt have much flavour either. We did want to buy a bottle, but after they cheap stuff (the Reserva sold for only 4euro!) we were not convinced this was the one, but after much looking at shelves we asked if we could try some other ones, we had a few including the 10 year tawny which was much better! So we settled for one of the best tawnys a 40 year! I would hate to imagine how much it would cost in Australia! After quite a few tastings, we decided we needed some food with our next tasting, harder than we thought! After another tour at Croft port house, which was very intresting and included a big part about what food you can match with Port, we asked for some food with our port, they were confused, apparently you can´t get food with port. So after more tastings and a quite good basic Ruby port we decided no more port without food, after some looking around it was clear no port houses sold food, so we gave up and went to the Sandeman cafe, where a 10 year port was 8 euro! they sold it in the port house for 10 euro a bottle! so it was back to beer with a mixed plate of cheese and hams! we were done with port for the day!
The river really was beautiful
We went out to the Casa de Musica to check out the Architecture, it really was an impressive building and is known as one of the best modern theatres in the world currently, until our Grand Canal Theatre opens (in Dublin)!
Then it was onto the lively university town of Coimbra
A beautiful old town with a impressive new riverfront area, this was the view from the new pedestrian bridge back over town
The Cathedral was impressive
The university was the highlight of the city, with a beautiful library (no pictures allowed!) it was built by the current king in the 18th century to house a selection of 15th & 16th century books given to the university. Truly amazing with only small groups of up to 10 people allowed in per 30 minutes
Next we moved on to a spur of the moment place, Peniche
Surfing capital of Portugal, and time for a bit of a break
We just missed a big swell, were they had 8ft surf for a few days but it was a realiable 4-5ft but a little messy so we didnt hire any boards but just relaxed and watched the germans on holiday dropping in on the few locals!
We hired bikes on our first day, and rode around the entire peninsular, which would be straight forward on a decent bike but on a 14" bike with 1 gear that works it was a struggle but you can complain for 5 euro!
This was the main spot for surfing in Baleal, just 4k around the bay from the main town
On our last day we checked out an old fort which was famously used as a civil war prision up until the 70´s the local town band made an appearance on our way out and entertained us and some other locals, apparently this is a usual sunday tradation that the local band marches through the streets!