June 2017: Wing and the northern half of Portugal!
Following London is always a tough call, especially when the weather is good. But Wing gave us more sunshine (most of the time) and a bolt hole for a few days. Time to catch up with Dad and enjoy the countryside!
I warn you….this is a big month. Grab a drink and put your feet up.
We started as we meant to go on, on foot, and joined the Nordic Walking crew taking in the sights and sounds of Tring reservoir and the Grand Union Canal. What a glorious morning!
Then just a usual day in the land of Wing.
And a trip to Ascott House in the 2CV – my Dad’s pride and joy (the 2CV and Ascott House!!!)
For some reason they love knitting in Wing!
And of course eating! Thanks to Nicky for a totally amazing Sunday lunch.
From Luton it was a short flight over the Atlantic to Portugal. It can be a bit of a gamble with budget airlines but somehow we managed to get through security unscathed AND keep all our luggage within the free baggage allowance (we were very lucky though)!
And so to Portugal…..
If you’ve never visited Portugal, or if like me you’ve only ever taken a long week-end somewhere in the Algarve years ago, you should go. It’s a small, narrow country with a long western and shorter southern coastline. The other two sides are bordered with Spain. Just to be clear though they speak Portuguese NOT Spanish!
I found the people of Portugal to be friendly and surprisingly good at English. My language skills are non existent so I’m impressed by anyone who can string a sentence together in a second language.
Our first stop was Porto. After a few days I felt very at home, enjoying the feel of this medium sized city. It has much to offer as you will see from my photos. It also helpfully provides very steep streets which is a tremendous benefit when combating the effects of vast volumes of ice-cream located on every corner. Not to forget the pastries and the famous Franchesinha which are all calorie bombs in their own right.
Porto resides on one side of the Douro river estuary so you’re never far from spectacular views and open skies.
Our apartment came with it’s own cat. Well she saw that way – you know what cats are like. All rooms with an open door are their home. This one lived upstairs officially but regularly came for some tlc and to scratch the furniture!! And she looks so cute!
It’s easy to get around. We took a couple of highly entertaining free walking tours and spent most of our time on foot. Alternatively you could take the tram, a tuk tuk or just rent a bike.
As I mentioned, Porto has steep streets and lots of steps so be prepared to work your legs. This is me taking a well earned break on a doorstep along the Camino route which runs through Porto.
It’s great to walk the city. There’s so much to see. The buildings are beautiful and the views plentiful. If you’re lucky you may find the bookshop which inspired J K Rowling to write Harry Potter.
There is always something to catch your eye here.
We hired bikes for a day and rode all the way along the river path to find the beaches. On the return journey we took a little ferry which, for 2 euros, carried our bikes and us to the other side of the river to Gaia. We enjoyed the trip but they say ‘the best thing about Gaia is the view that you get of Porto’!
The reward is the food. Restaurant menus tend to offer similar dishes but if you’re lucky you’ll find, tucked away, a restaurant which will delight. Thanks to a recommendation, we found a restaurant called Porta 4. It was a tiny place with only 4 small tables, all within an olive stones throw of the even tinier kitchen. Miracles took place there. Marvellous! We went 2 nights in a row!
It had to be done. The Franchesinha – Ol’s fave!
There is only one thing to do after dinner. Groan, rub your tummy, then kick back in the park. Check out that view!
Car rental is cheap in Portugal, especially if you pick up the car from the airport. The added bonus of this is you don’t need to worry about navigating your way through the narrow streets to leave the city. We hired a car for one day and took a road trip through the Douro Valley.
There are some great towns to visit. If you’re happy to do a whistle stop tour you can see a lot in one day: Penafiel, Lamego, Amarante and Peso de Regua.
The 686 steps to The Shrine of Nossa Senhora dos Remédios. It’s funny how the order of the photos makes it look like we actually climbed all those steps!
A very scenic lunch spot!
Leaving Porto behind we boarded the train for Coimbra. It’s only a couple of hours by comfortable train but you have to change a few times which can be test of character, timing and stamina in the heat.
Coimbra is a small medi-evil town set on the river, which had a surprising sense of community. In the short time we were there we experienced a number of events, all well attended. Our stay, sadly, was during the wildfires which took some lives and really shook the country. Although not in any danger we were close enough to see the skies turn dark with smoke and the ash fall on the town.
Plenty to see in, around and between the streets and plazas
Including for those with a sense of humour.
The ‘fun run’ had an amazing turn out for such a small town, especially as it was 10K and super steep!
River walks and Fado music with sundowners is a much more civilised way to rub shoulders with the locals.
(Can you spot the lone paddle boarder above?)
And talking of which….more entertainment!
And if all else fails, eat!
Next stop Lisbon