wk 12 – porto, douro & prado

OK so I am quite behind the times, playing catch up, with little excuse other than being distracted by books, the lake, Rome, and the odd festa, so I am still kind of stuck in Portugal and Spain for this edition, Italy week 1 is the next to come, hopefully without too many distractions in the next couple of days…

After the birthday weekend we decided to rent a car for a few days and see a little more of Portugal, finishing with a day in Lisbon before flying to Madrid. After a bit of research we managed to book a car from the rental place 10 steps below us so all went rather smoothly…until we reached our first evening stop and realised we did not have the camera charger, bugger, so whilst there are a fair few photos to follow, they are concentrated into the first day, until the camera ran out, so none of Porto or the gorgeous Douro valley, do please google image as it was beautiful!!!

Driving North from Cascais we followed the coast road past some spectacular, windswept beaches:

We turned inland towards a small village called Batahla late afternoon, to visit the rather amazing cathedral. I went down into the underground toilet as you do, in the main square, and managed to almost become the first casualty of the cavalry guard, who were as suprised as I was to see me pop out of the exit…!

It turned out there was some form of commemoration, so we were treated to a parade, speech, and revealing of the 2011 plaque, before we even reached the cathedral and monastery, couldn’t have planned it better…

And so on to the monastery, breathtaking, UNESCO heritige listed for good reason, from the hauntingly beautiful stain glass light on the tombs, the legend and love story of Pedro and Ines de Castro, who are entombed here facing each other so that when they wake, the first thing they will lay eyes on will be each other, a rather violent history with a fairly peaceful entombed ending for now…more detail through the link below if you are entrigued, to the incredible courtyards and monastery interior…

http://www.theroyalarticles.com/articles/71/1/Ines-de-Castro-The-Queen-Who-Was-Crowned-After-Death/Page1.html

The side of the cathedral, pictured above with Loc looking a little bored as it took a while for me to get him in the shot without anyone else (!), was quite exceptional and reminded me of Jain temples in the hills of India, really exquisitely carved and detailed. Our stop for the evening was back on the coast:

watching the sunset over the rather chilly atlantic waves, with the usual vino blanco and birra…

The next day we drove to Porto, and fell in love with the place, it’s built up the sides of two steep hills with a deep river valley, port warehouses, bridges and gorgeous riverside walkways, given the no camera situation I will slightly cheat below to give a flavour with a shot I could never have taken anyway as it’s from the air and rather good timing!!!

We walked up one of the steep hills to visit Graham’s port warehouse and found the tour really interesting, with a lot of connections to the river Douro as the port used to be rowed down the rapids, a bit of a white water experience before they dammed the river recently…quite enjoyed the port tasting at the end, and we then went for what turned out to be a white water driving experience, along the Douro river, past stunning scenery, mountains, and lots of pebbly beaches and little villages, really loved Portugal, lots of contrast, and apparently the sea is usually a little warmer than minus 5…!

Our day/night in Lisbon was spent in Barrio Alto, perched on stools on the side of tiny cobblestone streets, sipping vinho, eating amazing melting cheeses, and people watching (including those in cars who crept past every now and then about 3cm from your table!!)…and so onto Madrid where we had a lovely evening retracing our steps from a week before, tapas, cava, language I could speak (yay!) and a whole morning to take in the wonders of the Prado…could have spent a month and still only scratched the surface, amazing, every painting is a masterpiece, must return again soon…to finish is a photo out of sequence of the royal palace in Madrid, as again we had no camera at this stage, great city, if a tad hot in the summer!

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