A walk and a stay in history

October 11, 2017 - Nelas, Portugal

Up early again although we don't need to be ready until 8.15am. At least it was a chance to relax and enjoy a good Hotel Teatro breakfast with the rest of our group. This time we knew where everything was. It was very easy to just slow down and talk to the others about where they ate last night and the plans for the day.

John was a bit late again this morning so we were all in the foyer and checked out before he arrived.

Today we drove to Amarante. Alessandro had to park a little way away because of our extra big coach. John suggested forty minutes for the visit and we should be back at the bus by 10.10am. From the bus it was a pleasant walk along the river with some good reflections. We crossed the bridge into town for a look at Igreja de São Gonçalo. Max walked up the hill into the main street and drew out some cash for lunch etc., while the others spread out around the church and market areas.

John rallied the troops and marched us back to the bus. I think he is worried about a repeat of yesterday.

From Amarante we drove west again to Vila Real for a visit to the gardens of the Mateus Manor and vineyards. A pleasant place to walk around for an hour but I know John was getting twitchy before he got us onto the bus again to go to Lamego. I know because I was sitting in the shade across the road waiting for Margaret to emerge from the shadows of the gardens.

We were headed to Lamego (about half an hour to the south) for a lunch stop and the drive took us through the Douro Valley, where the vineyards supply wine to make Port. In fact it is in the area that the fermentation takes place and the alcohol is introduced to stop the fermentation and to retain some of the sugars from the grapes. It is then shipped down the river to Porto where it is aged in oak barrels. Some for tawny are about 200 litres but those for Ruby Port are huge.

In Lamego we had 2.5 hours to spread out and find lunch. Margaret and I took a few photos at fountains along the main street before stumbling over the Lamego Museum in the old Bishops Palace. There were displays of artwork including painting, sculpture, tapestries and porcelain ware as well as altar pieces, chapel settings and Bishop's robes and mitres. Also there was silverware from altars and churches. Many pieces were on open and unguarded display. Exit was through an area with old tombstones, Roman stones and some of the Bishop's coaches and Sedan Chairs as well as two pairs of 1.5 metre high Japanese porcelain jars. We missed lunch completely as we were so enthralled by the museum.

Everybody met at the bus at 2.30pm and we drove to the top of the hill to another sanctuary, chapel and set of Baroque gardens and steps. This is becoming a bit of a theme but our visit was brief. Margaret will tell you that I don't like Baroque (plinky-plonk) music and I find I am a little nonplussed about Baroque gardens as well. Perhaps the highlight for me was getting the café owner to sell me a couple of Almond Magnum Ice Creams even though he had closed. In fact he had to go back to his car to get me some change. I did give him a bit extra for his trouble.

Further south then to Viseu where we were told about Viriato, who defended his area against the Romans. While John told us something about the dates and the way he was betrayed and killed I found a plaque that explained in Potuguese that we were standing on the perimeter of his fortification and the hill behind his statue was the mound delineating the defences when his people were attacked. For some reason the English explanation had been rubbed away and as Jeff remarked it was easier to read the Portuguese than the English.

Drove out through the Dão Valley vineyards on a winding road that then ascended into the forest and farmland and on to the Hotel Urgeiriça. This is an old-world style of Hotel that is supposed to be Four Star but that may have been in it's heyday of the 1950's. I don't think the plumbing had been upgraded since then, so once more we stepped back in time. But it did have a regal charm in the common areas. We congregated on the terrace with drinks before wandering off in small groups to the Dining Room for dinner.

Margaret had Pork Loin (I'm beginning to think she is planning to eat only pork or salads in the foreseeable future), and I had Rump Steak. On the other hand I will probably spend my time searching for a decent piece of beef. None of the cuts bear a great resemblance to Australian cuts, not in shape, thickness or texture. Danny's American viewpoint was much the same, this wasn't rump steak as either of us knew it.

Margaret and I shared a bottle of Dão Valley wine and finished with coffee. We had shared our table with Danny and Robyn and they managed to get the dour waiter to relax a little and, with his blessing (encouragement), they took desserts back to their room. We couldn't manage even a small taste as we had already eaten too much.


Reflections in Amarante
The Mateus Manor
Waiting at the gates
Vineyards in the Douro Valley
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