Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May 1 (Labourers Day) - Portugal -Viana do Castelo Day 1

 breakfast in Porto Pousada, Penny looking at fresco remnants
 picture of picture of worker restoring fresco - looks like fascinating, but hard, work
 looking our our Viana do Castelo hotel window at broom on 15th century house behind us
 Sculpture in Liberty Plaza between our hotel and the River Lima
 church in centre of Viana do Castelo the the old city was built around it
 pipe & drum group walking through town celebrating May 1 - Labourers' Day
 Mike stearing Gil Eannes through the North Atlantic... (just kidding)
 safely in port
 May 1 Union concert in plaza - thought of nephew Mark
paper flowers decorating the streets

 real flowers decorating the streeets - a beautiful city..
 more streetside flowers
 walking home after a wonderful fresh sea bass dinner at a seaside eatery.

We had our last breakfast in the Postada do Porto and backed up our bags to get ready to leave. Our bags - Mike's red backpack, my red wheeled bag, our 2 small black daypacks and our green carryall - pretty much full of food and snacks (buns, cheese, fruit, olives) bought in the Porto market yesterday.  It had been pouring with rain in the night and it was still showerey. Our taxi driver Benjamim picked us up before noon and drove us up the toll roads to the coastal town of Viana do Costelo - another seaport at the mouth of a river. This time - the Lima River. Our hotel here is quite small and faces onto a main road betweeen the old town and the docks. The colour scheme in the lobby area is turquoise and red - very bright. When I asked Benjamim what he thought the weather would be like he passed me his cell phone and said it looked as if we were in for a week of the same (wet cold) weather.

When we got to the hotel we noticed it was decorated with a sprig of yellow flowering broom - just like the broom we have at home and that we think came from Scotland. It is quite common here in Portugal - so maybe it actually came from here. Anyway, apparently everyone in Portugal decorates their home, car, boat, etc, with sprigs of broom on May 1 to bring good fortune for the next year.

We donned rain jackets and toques and walked around the old part of Viana to get a sense of the place. It was cold but the rain held off.

One of the first things we noticed was a portable stage set up in the main square or centro. It was to celebrate May 1 - workers' day. Unlike other parts of Europe where (according to the BBC) it appears there were demonstrations against government restraint measures today, there was only a three piece band - keyboard, drums and accordian - making very enjoyable music and few dignataries standing on the balcony above the union hall. All the balconies around the centro were decorated with wreaths - partly made of broom. May 1 is the second national holiday we have experienced here in Portugal - so again quite a few things were closed. I have read that people in Europe work shorter hours and get more hoidays than those in North America and this seems to be true in Portugal.

The next thing we noticed was the basilica on the top of the hill to the north - very high up and very impressive.

The third was the former hospital ship Gil Eanne tied up in the harbour. We had a bit of lunch and then spent a good hour touring the Gil Eanne. It had been built in Viana in 1955 to go to the Grand Banks of Newfoundland (Terra Nova) to support the Portuguese cod fishing fleet. It was only about 57 years ago that the cod fishery was at its peak - yet it now seems ages since the cod were over-fished almost to extinction. Very sad - but an interesting connection to Canada that I didn't really appreciate living on the West Coast.

Later in the afternoon we found the big multi-story mall in Viana. It is a lot like every other mall I have ever been in - including "Body Shop," the "Undercolours of Benetton" a typical food fair, and lots of teens - plus a deck with a great view of the city. We finished the day having dinner at a seafood restaurant near the castle on the waterfront. We had sea bass (a small white fish) with tasty potatoes and thinly sliced green beans. Having read "The Omnivore's Dilemma" a couple of years ago, I am slightly aware of the problem of overfishing many of the world's fish species and hope sea bass, being a smallish fish, is not among the endangered.

Tomorrow we have a choice of 2 walks - I hope we opt for "Coastal Forts" but if we choose "Canoes  de Agua" I hope we take the funicular up to the basilica where that walk begins. We have a dodgy connextion so we wil try photos tomorrow - so goodnight.

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