A Travellerspoint blog

Goodbye Spain Hello Portugal!

sunny 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:
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Admired the fort itself:
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and said our final farewells to Spain (we will be back in a few weeks!):
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Our last leg of the day was to Barcelos, home of the famous Cock
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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.
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here is another, with a man having a nap on the balcony :-)
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and we visited a grand old Portugese mansion which had lovely gardens:
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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.
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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.
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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.
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The next part was this crazy staircase that we came to see. It is really beautiful, and being there before sunset was great!
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and ofcourse, then there was the church at the top :-)
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So our start to Portugal has been pretty good!
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Posted by Rish_n_Ben 07:25 Archived in Portugal Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Sunshine, Seafood & Wine

sunny 26 °C

Our next stop in Spain was Pontevedra, a beautifully preserved medieval town

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We usually try to see a few hotels before we pick a place to stay, what you end up with can really vary all within the same price range, we ended up with what we call a cave room! which is basically a room with little or no natural light and what appears to be 5watt light globes with only 1 working.

Pontevedra was a nice little town though with lots of winding streets to explore, we spent most of our time stopping in plazas for drinks and looking for good places to eat

We had a great lunch at this simple seafood place
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For some reason there was a lot of graffiti around the town, most likely because there is nothing for the kids to do, it contrasted well at this place against the bright green paint

Next stop was the seaside town of Cambados, sitting right at the mouth of one of the famous Rias(rivers), Cambados the the capital of the Rias Baixas wine district famous for their Albarino wines!

We choose a hotel out of the tourist office accom guide, and a very freindly lady showed us to an average room facing a small quite street, it only had two single beds so Rishi with her now expert Spanish asked if they had a room with a Double bed as well, with sea views if possible, she explained in detail that she only had a small apartment but we could look if we liked. It turned out the be a two bedroom apartment with a kitchen and windows that opened right onto the sea front, with a little bargining we got the room for less than she wanted for the back room with single beds!

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The view was great
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The waterfront was great for stolling and just as good for watching the locals strolling as well
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Fishing is still big in this area, but we couldnt quite work out what was going to be done with this Anchor Bike!
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There wernt too many wineries right at the town, but this beautiful place was only 5 mintues walk from town and had a onsite hotel with tasting rooms etc.
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But the best part about Spain is that you pay little more in a bar or even a restaurant for a glass of wine than you would for the price calculated from a bottle shop price, Albarino wines are some of the pricest whites I have ever drunk and you would struggle to find one back in Australia for under $25 in a bottle shop, and yet I was drinking some of the best I have had for €1 a glass
Although you do miss a few things here as well, like clean wine glasses, you almost always get something floating in the glass or finger prints on it! and in Cambados after a few glasses with lunch of a particularly good Albarino, one glass arrived completly warm (not great!) so we asked if he had another bottle that was cold, so he comes out with the cold bottle and just pours some cold wine on top and asks if that is ok! We now have two buckets of wine! for 1euro!
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Just on the edge of town was a beautiful ruined 15th century Cathedral, which has now been converted into a cemetary with graves right up into the ruined building
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It was hard not to drink wine all the time here, it was all so good. But somehow the beer taps were hard to resist here as well, these a specific to this region of Spain and are for the Estrella Galica beer
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No bar is without its resident dog, we named this fella Tooth Dog for obvious reasons
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With our own apartment, we spent two nights in Cambados relaxing and enjoying the small town as this would be our last stop in Spain for now and we are heading for Portugal
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Posted by Rish_n_Ben 07:21 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Friends in La Coruña

sunny 23 °C

There is a saying that in La Coruña no one is a stranger, and we found this out pretty quickly! After getting off our train from Lugo we headed to the bus stop to get the bus into town. There we met a lovely old man who was just sitting at the stop, waiting for someone to talk to. He quickly struck up a conversation with me (in very fast Spanish!) telling me how great it is that I can speak Spanish and experience the culture. He said Spain is the best country in the world, and very romantic, that Galicia has the best food, and that La Coruña is at the end of the world and has great beaches! He was so cute and funny. I didnt think he would ever let me go, just kept talking and talking and talking (and even wanted to discuss the news in the local paper with me!). He didnt know where Australia was and was quite confused when I kept telling him it wasnt in Europe. He started talking to Ben and when I told him that Ben doesnt speak very much Spanish it didnt stop him! He started talking to Ben in full speed Spanish with Ben just nodding his head and me laughing. It was great! Eventually we said farewell to our new friend and headed into town with a great start to a new city.

La Coruña is on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean and our first beach stop, so we headed straight to the beach of course! The sunshine was great and we couldnt have asked for better weather.
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We had a great time exploring the headland sites, including a Roman fort which was converted into a lighthouse and still works!
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We got around the headland in the most awesome trasport! These really old trolley cars!
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The inside was so cool, and really clean considering how old it was!
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At night ofcourse we had to explore the tapas scene. Here is a view of one of the streets we visited:
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and one of the best places we found was this jamoneria, which had jamon hanging all over the roof and was appropriately named the king of Jamon!
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Ben enjoyed some good tintos there
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We also found another great tapa bar which had excellent seafood! We are making it our mission in Galicia to try every type of shellfish on offer before we leave :-)

La Coruña emblem:
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We love the skull and crossbones

Posted by Rish_n_Ben 10:09 Archived in Spain Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Romance on the roads to Rome

sunny 24 °C

Only a few days into our trip and fresh from our stay in a decent pension in Santiago it happened to be our 10 year anniversary!! Being on a quickly organised 4 month holiday on our way back home we didn't have too much time to organise anything too extravagant, so Rishi researched the best Paradors (Historic building hotels) for the area of Spain that we would be in, and it happened to be in a beautiful walled Roman town, Lugo
The accommodation was exactly our style, not to over the top, and was only opened this year
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The room was great with a huge surprise of having a 42" plasma on the wall!
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All the staff were super friendly and our stay was exactly what we wanted
The town was reasonably large for a walled Roman town and the walls are still almost entirely intact, but unfortunately most of the houses inside the walls haven fallen into disrepair and many have been knocked down, the area of our Hotel was the most intact and there were quite a few beautiful old buildings being renovated
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Most of the most impressive old buildings had been converted into museums in the early 20th century by wealthy locals, this museum was a real highlight with a broad collection of local antiquities and even modern artwork.
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Rishi was delighted to find and unusual self serve pop corn machine in the old town!
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We stayed one night in luxury in our Parador, so to really enjoy ourselves we found the best restaurant in town and had a great meal
Rishi had the Merlurza(Hake) which is a great local fish in Spain
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And I had the Lubina (Sea Bass) which I was warned when I ordered was done in a special style consisting of a very! creamy sauce (very indulgent!)
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The meals were great, but the dessert was the real highlight, unfortunately no photos as I was too shocked to get the camera in time. But Rishi had a Delicious speciality of a crepe like thing stuffed with some sort of house made triple cream which is then warmed up again, very creamy.
But I had the flaming Leche Frita which is basically fried milk, but this speciality was then flamed with brandy, the waiter was quite excited about it and set up his little tray and brandy in front of us (with the rest of the restaurant also watching) he then poured the flaming brandy over and spooned it around to flame it right up and kept pouring more, and then got a bit too cocky and spilt the flaming branding down his arm! luckily it burns at a low heat! but he ran of to what I assumed would be to rinse his arm off but came back in about 1 second with a cloth to wipe up what he had spilt, but after a smile I was sure that he was ok and I was safe to eat my dessert!
It was a memorable evening!

Posted by Rish_n_Ben 10:09 Archived in Spain Comments (1)

First Stop in Spain- Santiago de Compostella

sunny 23 °C

Its kind of ironic, but we are starting our journey home from the end of the pilgrammage route (el camino) through Spain, Santiago de Compostela.

We were both pretty excited to be heading back to Spain, a country we have visited many times during our trips (mostly at my insistance I must admit). As soon as we got off the plane I was grinning at the prospect of getting to practice my Spanish on a daily basis. The fact that it was a beautiful, clear, sunshiny day helped a lot too! Santiago is a beautiful city. We quickly managed to find a great little pension run by a very friendly lady and settled in for some sight seeing and eating!

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this is the view from our window:
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Being in Santiago our first stop was the famous cathedral, which really is very beautiful
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Our other major task for our stop was to sample the seafood! Galicia (North-west corner of Spain) is famous for its seafood, and in particular the octopus. We found plenty of pulperias around town, it was just a matter of finding the best one!
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To start the night off right we had to have our first caña (beer) which in Galicia is acompanied by huge amounts of FREE tapas
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which can lead to people going a little crazy..... the beer is really cheap
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We eventually made it to this great pulperia:
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which had excellent pulpo!
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and after several tapa stops we found these great street buskers with heaps of people dancing right infront of the cathedral!
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I think we started the trip off pretty well, though our heads and bodies complained a little about it the next day :-) Thanks Santiago for a fun two night stay! On with the pilgrammage!
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Posted by Rish_n_Ben 09:26 Archived in Spain Comments (1)

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