We had a rest day. We all seemed to be so tired and I think apart from the actual physical walking, we are all finally slowing down. Each of us had been furiously busy leading up to the trip and then we caught colds plus also our concerns over Anne’s seriously ill daughter and our various families. Walking gives your mind rest even if your feet are feeling the kilometres!
It was a public holiday here today so the town was quiet and not too many restaurants or cafes were offering meals. A fast day wouldn’t go astray as we have been eating wonderful food for the most part and enjoying Sangrias and good wine as well as port. It is years since I had port( probably when I was in my twenties and we used to play cards after dinner for cheap entertainment.) I have discovered white port, chilled as an aperitif , or room temperature afterwards. It is not uncommon for a restaurant to offer you shots of port after a meal-gratis. Very pleasing.
The museums were all closed because it was Monday so we had only the Templo do Sagrado Coração de Jesus atop the Monte Santa Luzia, the hill situated behind Viana do Castelo, to explore. It was an amazing structure modelled on Sacré Coeur in Paris. Fortunately we could take a funicular up which our feet much appreciated. It is a beautiful building that we thought resembled the Taj Mahal from a distance when the sun was shining onto it. It has elaborate carvings but is quite modern inside and relatively plain and unadorned. They have built an elevator so you can go up 30 metres but then you need to climb the most narrow winding staircase to reach a viewing area above the dome. The staircase has traffic lights! Something that would have been useful in the tower in Porto. The view was an amazing 360 degrees but obscured by cloudy mist. You could see up the estuary of the Lima river, down to the sea, across the market gardens to the north, and around to the hills surrounding the city. They also have a prayer and reconciliation room behind the church that emanated peace and tranquility.
There was an Albergue up there for backpackers/pilgrims too. Not a great thought after a long days walking to face that hill. Overlooking the church is a beautiful hotel in the grounds of which are the remains of a Celtic/Iberian settlement dating from the 4thC BC. We took the longest way round to find that it was closed, because it was Monday! Eventually we returned to the hotel to collect rain jackets as the temperature started to drop and rain was forecast. We struggled to find lunch anywhere but in our search we gained a good sense of the historical centre. It is very charming.
We are very aware of the low key nature of advertising here. There doesn’t seem to be the push of posted advertisements or neon signs that we suffer at home. It makes for a much calmer environment.
After trying a few restaurants and cafes without success we found a place that did toasted sandwiches. The place was bursting at the seams but the waiter was so good natured and a great salesperson. He quickly explained what was left on the menu and guided us to a decision! I love that they bake so much and when it’s gone, it’s gone; you have to chose something else. Fewer choices is so less stressful. Our toasted sandwiches came promptly and when Anne’s was missing the cheese they just took it and returned with the correct order. No discussion or apology but swift gracious correction. Same thing last night when Irene’s vegetables didn’t come with her dinner. People are polite and pleasant. When it came to cakes the same waiter just told us what was left and sold us two types cut into four to share. He gauged us well!
With everything closed we returned to the hotel and rested. Bill found a laundromat and went off to wash. We had done all ours the night we arrived so we were up to date. The rain settled in as forecast and we enjoyed a quiet afternoon reading and writing and sleeping.
We had booked dinner at a Café at which we couldn’t get a table at lunch time because it was so busy. The Cafe Sport. It had all the Portuguese football heroes jumpers and other paraphernalia. The only female waitress said it was her husband’s passion and she was over football! We laughed and sympathised. Poor Bill has a very poor audience for his football discussions! We had to kill some time and as it was raining we continued past the restaurant and stumbled on a little art gallery. The theme of the art was the liberation of Portugal from dictatorship. The 25 th of April is liberation day and the carnation is a symbol of the day. The gallery assistant was very happy to show us around and wanted to show us the art of the local children who had produced pieces too. It is a very joyous day. We felt quite privileged.
We went back to the restaurant and were the first customers. The staff were so full of fun and keen to please. We had the most delicious roast lamb but it was ribs and back bone or neck not a leg. The meat fell off the bone and was so sweet. I had my first white sangria. Definitely will be making that at home.