Sunday, September 13, 2009

Viana do Castelo

We’ve enjoyed our brief stay here and wouldn’t mind staying longer, but the sail maker is in Leixões, so that’s where we’re headed today. The cruising guide says the water in the marina there is filthy, but Carlos here says that they’ve cleaned it up there now.

Yesterday was our one day for sightseeing here, and we made the most of it. First we walked around in the old city center, which has many buildings from the 16th century. There we found the tourist information office, got a map, and learned where to get the funicular to the top of the hill overlooking the city.

Park separating the waterfront from the old city

Shirlee in local costume

At the top of the hill is Saint Lucia Basilica, which looks old but was actually built in the 20th century, sort of like the Bénédictine palace in Fécamp. We did go inside, but what we were really after was the view, and it was great even though a smoky haze from a forest fire obscured the distant mountains. Busloads of tourists swarmed the area around the basilica, so, of course, there were also vendors selling souvenirs. As we were looking for something to buy, John spotted a guy selling sausages and cured meats, so that’s what we got.


Sausage vendor

Also at the top of the hill is a pre-Roman ruin, the oldest site we’ve seen in Europe. All the tourists go to the basilica, but few seem to continue on to the ruins. They reminded us of our visits to the Native American ruins in Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado, but without the interpretive center. Too bad because we would have liked to know more about the site.

Pre-Roman ruins

A stop at the harbor side Foz restaurant for Internet ended our evening. Earlier in the day we learned that one of the waiters is Welsh, and it was nice to find someone who could tell us a little more about the area. One thing we learned is that sangria is a Portuguese drink, not Spanish as we had thought. I don’t know if that’s really true, but the house-made sangria at the Foz was excellent.

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