Wednesday, May 2, 2012

May 2, 2012 - Portugal - Viana do Castelo Day 2

 on our walk, hiding behind an old windmill on the beach to get out of the wind & rain
 looking the other way, waves crashing on the beach
 a break in the weather so out to get a picture of our hotel (above Penny's head)
national first prize plaque for municipal library
 looking under the main building of the municipal library toward the river
 municipal library from the front of our hotel
ready for dinner inside our colourful hotel - and it was delicious...

Mike says I should start the blog by saying that today - like everyday - I did exactly what I wanted to do. And that's pretty much true!

We seem to be the only people staying in our small hotel - at least no-one else was there at breakfast. It was raining quite a lot in the morning so we decided that rather than take the bus or taxi to the beginning of the walk about 11 km up the coast and walking back to Viana, we would simply start from the hotel and go as far as seemed reasonable before retracing our steps. We bundled up in our rain gear and set out into the rain. After about an hour we got to a restaurant by the beach where we gratefully found a toilet and also had coffee and a pastel de nata (custard tart). Then on we went along the coastal path past a  of ancient stone forts and several round stone structures which had formerly been small windmills for grinding cereal. On the tree-covered hill tops were wind turbines rotating in the quite strong which came behind us from the south. Eventually the rain more or less stopped and we had our buns and cheese on the beach near a windmill. Then we walked back to town - against the wind and rain. The beaches are quite interesting with a lot of black jagged rocks and round pebbles and quite a bit of surf beyond the rocks. In all we walked a bit more than 12 km - all on flat paths - very pleasant really. (Yesterday we walked 6 km around the town.)

When we got back to town we walked around the big stone castelo at the mouth of the Lima River and, after hanging our clothes up to dry in our room, went to a very interesting small museum directly behind our hotel. It housed a display showing the various civilizations which had existed in the area, displaying artifacts from the beach we had just walked as well around Viana. The desciption was in English as well as Portuguese and very enlightening. It started with round cobbles which had been chipped to a point dating back to paleolithic times - as long ago as 2.5 million years. (Paleolithic means "old stone age.") Then more polished stone tools dating back 10,000 years when agriculture, pottery making and weaving first began. (Neolithic means "new stone age." Stonehenge and menhirs date back to neolithic times. There was also information on bronze and iron age civilizations. Then the beginning of Christianity followed by  Romanization. The big pilgrimage centre Santiago or St James (of Camino fame) is not too far away in Spain. I think Viana is probably on the pilgrims rounte to Santiago from Portugal. After the Romans came the Visigoths followed by the Moors and then recapture of the area by Christians and the beginning of medieval times. It really was fascinating to see it all portrayed as having happened here in Viana. We also visited the truly lovely and extremely modenr public library across the street from the hotel.

We had dinner in the hotel - pasta with grilled chicken bits and salad. It was very good. The dining room is decorated very coourfully. The atmosphere here is very relaxing. We had a great chat with the young woman who was looking after reception and cooked our dinner. She had been born in Thompson Manitoba of Portuguese parents who had immigrated to Canada. Her family had moved back to Portugal when she was 12. Her English was perfect and it was interesting to talk to her about the econimic problems in Europe. Her sense was that things were improving in Portugal - but she thought Canada was smarter because we are planning ahead to delay the retirement age to 67.

We have been told that the weather this last year has been very unusual - the hot fall as Pete & Barb experienced (people swimming at the beaches here into October), and the very dry winter - the only rain this winter has been in the last three weeks!

So that's it for today. Tomorrow we will be picked up at 9:30 and driven part way to our next hotel in Ponte de Lima - not really too far up the river from Viana.

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