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PORTUGAL Fall 2001 (4)
Index of this travelogue

MINHO

Vila Praia de Ancora | Moledo | Camarido| Caminha
Vila Nova de Cerveira | Valenca| Moncao | Melgaco

Vila Praia de Ancora - Moledo

Tiredness overcame our emotions and we finally slept through the night. Leaving Viana do Castelo, we drove north along the coast to two popular seaside resort towns, Vila Praia de Ancora and Moledo. The beachfront of the former is lined with weathered apartment buildings and seemed geared for the mass-market beach going crowd, while the latter was more low-key, appealing to a more affluent visitor.

Camarido

Just before the ancient fortress town of Caminha is Camarido, where the Minho River empties into the sea. It's a perfect spot to camp amongst tall pines or enjoy the beaches along the river. There's even a fortress on a tiny island offshore.

Caminha

Caminha sits on the river across from La Guarda in Spain. There is a daily ferry connecting the two. The Minho River runs between Portugal and Spain and there is much interplay along its length. The central square with its major monuments and cafes is the heart and soul of the town. The outdoor tables and the steps around the graceful fifteenth century Terreiro Fountain were filled with locals enjoying the wonderful weather. The fifteenth century Torre do Relogio (clock tower) captured our attention. It's a relic from the old defense system and is the only remaining tower of the ten, which surrounded the town. The other impressive building in the square is the Pitas House, built in the Manueline style. It's a lovely praca in a relaxing waterfront town. We would have liked to have had the time to stay a while.

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Vila Nova de Cerveira

Following the river, we reached Vila Nova de Cerveira about twelve kilometers east of Caminha. This town seems to have capitalized on its ferry link to Spain as it appeared to be quite prosperous. The old town, with a sweet main square and narrow streets housing 17th and 18th century manor houses, has grown to include new, elegant apartment buildings and homes. Art plays a dominant role with an art school, an gallery for art shows and a contemporary art museum. There's also a public swimming pool and an exhibition hall.

The riverfront is lovely for strolling and enjoying the surrounding green countryside. The sixteenth century walled castle has been converted and refurbished as the Pousada Dom Dini. It is unique and worth a visit, if not a stay.

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Valenca

Further along the river, facing the Spanish town of Tuy, is Valencia, historically an important border and military post. This is immediately evident from the fortress and bridge fortifications dating from the 17th and 18th centuries. Within the narrow confines of two double-walled forts linked by a short causeway, the entire old town is one big shopping center for the thousands of Spaniards who cross the bridge every day in search of bargains. The newer part of the town, south of the walls, is also dominated by shopping opportunities.

We didn't have the patience or desire to hunt for bargains because we were anxious to move up river to Moncao and Melgaco, the center of the Alvarinho grape region where the best vinho verde is produced. The sight of vineyards as far as the eye could see was glorious!

Moncao

Moncao is a charmer with squares surrounded by handsome old buildings and homes with gardens and trees in abundance. The old city walls are impressive. When rebuilt, Caldas de Moncoa, the naturally beautiful park east of town with its hot mineral springs, will be perfect for indoor and outdoor activities.

About five kilometers south of town is the majestic 19th century Palacio da Breijoeira, with its own theater and important vineyards. Imagine being able to live that way!

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Melgaco

Melgaco, twenty-four kilometers east of Moncoa, is a gateway to the Peneda-Geres National Park in the north. We hurried along for fear of missing lunch at Adega do Sossego, Quarta-Feira Peso (Tel: 251-40-43-08). After parking nearby, we passed through a stone archway, down a picturesque path, to the entrance of a wood and stone beauty. We entered and were led downstairs to the dining room on the lower level. The place was buzzing with locals, mostly business people enjoying hearty food in this hunting lodge environment. The service was swift and friendly. Marinated, smoked pork, crisply grilled sausage and melon with presunto were presented. We knew you pay for what you eat but we weren't passing on any of these goodies. Each one was special and we polished them off with a pitcher of the local delicious Alvarinho vinho verde.

Veal filets, tender, perfectly seasoned and skillfully grilled, chosen from a menu of five meat and five fish/seafood offerings, was an outstanding choice as a main course. The homemade potato chips were awesome and the crispy, mixed salad had the added touch of slices of apple and kiwi. It was an outstanding meal at a very reasonable price, topped off by a glass of the local Bagasso (similar to Grappa).

The active main square is within the walls of the old town, which sits on high surrounded by gorgeous wine country. We discovered the Solar do Alvarinho located in a building that had been a prison long ago. Today it's a gracious, modern building where you can learn about the "cycle of Alvarinho" and taste the certified, quality local wines. Alvarinho wines are strong, harmonious, fragrant, fresh and fruity, which qualities guide their production. Around the base of the old walls is a plaza with trees, gardens, benches for resting and play areas for the kids. The stone streets above and below are very well kept and clean. This is a neat town.

By the time we got back to the pousada we were beat so we decided to eat there rather than drive down to town. Linda's vegetable soup and tuna salad were passable. I returned a terrible tasting, lukewarm, caldo verde. My grilled dourada (whole white fish) was quite good but this was the first time I had been served frozen green beans and carrots in Portugal. The service was as erratic as the food. All things considered, very expensive and poor value.

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to next pageContinue traveling along with us or choose a link from below

(1) Porto
(2) Porto
(3) Minho
Viana do Castelo, Ponte de Lima, Ponte de Barca,
Soajo and Arcos de Valdevez
(4) Minho
Vila Praia de Ancora, Moledo, Camarido, Caminha,
Vila Nova de Cerveira, Valenca, Moncao, Melgaco
(5) Douro and Tras-os-Montes
Pinhao, Regua, Sabrosa, Pedras Salgadas and Vidago
(6) Douro and Tras-os-Montes
Pinhao, Mirandela and Braganca
(7) Douro
Pinhao
(8) Douro and Beiras
Lamego, Britiande, Mealhada and Coimbra
(9) Lisbon
(10) Lisbon
(11) Lisbon and Coast
Cascais, Estoril and Sintra
(12) Alentejo
Monsaraz, Redondo, Elvas, Borba and Vila Vicosa
(13) Alentejo and Beiras
Marvao, Castelo de Vide and Belmonte
(14) Porto

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