|Judy, David, Nick and David|
Northward bound again we headed inland, giving us a far more rural feel, to Coimbra, a gorgeous relaxed university town. The University of Coimbra is one of the oldest in Europe, certainly the oldest in Portugal and attracts many Euorpean and foreign students. It reminded me of Corpus Christie College in Cambridge, although far from the lush wonderful gardens of Cambridge all we really saw was clay, shingle and paved surfaces.
|Rabelo Boat on the Douro River|
|Judy at the Market in Porto|
We found a delightful appartment right on the beachfront in Villa Cha, twenty minutes north of Porto. A delightful city with a rich history, busy port and still most famous for being the birthplace of Port.
|Olives grown on roof of office building|
|Do Camon Church |
It's not a huge city, so perfect for walking, especially being built on the hills, some of the view were spectacular. We explored the back streets, as we often do, not always meaning to, but also enjoyed the variety of open air markets, glorious old buildings. and the stunning Do Camon Church with the striking blue ceramics.
From the south side of the Douro river you get a spectacular view of the old Port Wine Lodges which dominate the landscape. There are over 50 port producers within that area where the wines are aged and blended. We slipped into the Calem Port building to enjoy a quick guided tour, learn a little about the history and process of Port making and best of all taste both the chilled White and the Tawny port.
|Bom Jesus - Braga|
Off to do a bit more sightseeing, this time recommended by the locals. First stop Braga, founded by the Romans more than 2,000 years ago, the oldest Christian city in Portugal and Bom Jesus do Monte - an amazing spot - renown as Portugal's most spectacular sanctuary. The giant Baroque Escadaria ( granite staircase), designed in 1722 and finally finished in 1811, represents an upward spiritual journey.
|Bom Jesus do Monte|
We wandered up the crisscrossing stairway to reach the hilltop pilgrimage church and enjoy a wonderful panoramic view of Braga but not without a great cup of coffee at the bottom of the stairs. Probably made best by the delightful owner of the little cafe who couldn't do enough to help. Although our Portugese is practically nonexistant we have been pleasantly surprised by how gracious and welcoming most locals have been.
|Praca da Oliveria - Guimaraes|
Guimaraes, another world heritage listed city, known predominately as the city in which "Portugal was Born". In 1128 major political events took place that lead to the independence and "birth of a new nation". One of those delightful spots to spend a few hours in an afternoon enjoying the surroundings, cultural history and atmosphere of this delightful town. But the place really comes alive at dusk as Guimaraes of the youngest cities in Europe with over half the population under thirty.
Our final day and we hit the road, heading up the Duoro Valley, home of some of the earliest vineyards in Portugal, another World Heritage site. As we wind our way inland, you can see masses of vineyards dotted all around countrydside.
From what looks like a few square metres to huge hectares, they seem to cover any area that looks workable, although goodness knows how they do manage to harvest. The cost and time must exorbidant, but it certainly looks picturesque especially with the magnificent Douro River flowing through the middle of everything.
We were charmed by the local older women sitting on the roadside selling cherries and strawberries - couldn't go past them especially with the huge price of two euros per bag, and I mean a kilo or more!! They were delicious, almost as good as a Marlborough cherry.