Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Viana do Castelo

Bom dia Portugal !  

Bom dia, Portugaaaaaaaal !
Like many cruisers, our first stop in Portugal is Viana do Castelo, one of the ports of departure for the great Portuguese voyages of discovery.  The port is quite small but functional, with a waiting dock outside a swing bridge that is opened by the marina staff.  The port was full when we arrived, with visitors on the waiting dock 3-deep.  I called as we entered the channel and they told us to come on into the marina and they would find us a spot, probably tied up alongside another boat for the night.  Our good fortune was that, at the last minute, they decided to send us all the way to the far end of the marina and gave us a spot on the dock next to small local boats, and one of the only spots in the marina that is not on a lazy line with stern-to-dock moorings.  At low tide in a period of high tidal ranges, there is only about 1.70 meters of water here, but no problem for Mareda and her lifting center board !  Cost for a 11 m boat = 28 euros / night.  We’re just below the metal bridge designed by Gustav Eiffel, which adds just enough charm to make it tolerable when the train passes overhead with a deafening clatter.  They don’t cross too often and don’t run at night, so we’ve managed to ignore it most of the time.

The first day in a new country means finding a local telecom company and getting a new chip for the smartphone so that we can have internet connections (email, weather…).  We were gobsmacked to discover that we could buy a chip and 1 month / 2 GB internet service for 5 euros!  We kept hassling the girl, trying to find the catch, but it seems there is none.  Welcome to Portugal.  The same set-up cost us 40 euros in Spain.  We’re beginning to understand why so many French retirees choose to live in Portugal.  (** update:  the telephone situation was too good to be true.  The girl selling us the card sold us the wrong thing.  Getting it straightened out ended up bringing the cost back in line with Spanish costs.**)

We met one of these retired sailing couples who gave us a great address for lunch:  Casa Primevera (or Taberna Soares, depending on who you ask) in the old town.  It’s a hole-in-the-wall restaurant with a larger room behind.  You eat family style on large picnic tables or on smaller tables in the back.  The menu of the day was fried sardines (huge as your hand) or gizzards, served with rice and black-eyed peas.  We didn’t know this before it arrived (we just mimed 2 plates of the lunch special), but it was delicious.  Two big plates of food, beer and wine, coffee, and desert for 7.50 euros.  When they bring your coffee, they also bring a bottle of whiskey and eau-de-vie so you can spike your coffee or have a little “push coffee” as we say in French.  No charge.  What a country!

The old town is charming and larger than we imagined.  We took the funicular lift to the St Lucia Basilica and wandered through the streets most of the afternoon.  There’s a large grocery store (Froiz) in town and we loaded up for the next day or so. 

The weather is hot and dry although there’s a chance of a thunderstorm tonight.  The winds are still very light tomorrow so we’ve decided to stay another day and head down the coast on Thursday, where we’ll be within easy bus or train range of Porto. 

National Geographic has labeled Viana as one of the most beautiful panoramas. Click on the photo for larger size, although you'll have to use your imagination to see award-winning beauty.


Astrolabe Sailing said...

Fantastic! Looks lovely.
Enjoying living vicariously though your adventures. I am sick at home in bed with a cold.
Viki x

Sailing Mareda said...

Get well soon ! Think of the sunny days ahead !