Lamego Portugal: October 2017
Leaving Coimbra we headed North, unfortunately the end of our road trip was drawing close and we needed to get back to a Spain.
The drive was fairly bleak. We were confronted with the destruction that the fires has wreaked on the surroundings. Driving past burnt trees for kilometers and then coming to farmland and seeing the olive plantations and agriculture burnt to a crisp. We didn’t see any burnt houses but the fires literally burnt right to their doorsteps. It was really sobering. What was scary was that it was still smouldering. I kept seeing little plumes of smoke erupting from the blackened earth.
Lamego was chosen as our next stop based purely on the campsite that Chris had found online. It turned out to be a really good choice. A stunning building used as a B&B in summer with camping spots for tents and just 10 places for campervans. The spots are small and not really suitable for setting out your table and chairs etc but they have such a cool open air bar area with tables and chairs. The view from the van was amazing. The toilets were exceptional as you had big space with shower, toilet all in one area.
The other bonus is that the campsite has a little mini bus that for €2 per person shuttles you up and down to the town. So organized,peaceful and calm we loved it.
Turns out Lamego has quite a lot to offer. It is on the edge of the well known Douro region, glorious scenery and vineyards as far as you can see. It was an important town in the old times as it was at the crossroad of a busy route from north to south and east to west. It’s most significant role in the country’s history was as the site where, in 1143, Afonso Henriques was officially declared as Portugal’s first king. It was a great seat of Catholicism and the Bishop of Lamego built many important religious buildings including a cathedral, chapels as well as the very famous “Sanctuary“ the Nossa Senhora dos Remédios (Our Lady of Remedies). It is one the preferred routes for the Saint James Way to Santiago de Compostela but then Chris will roll his eyes and tell you that every place we have visited in Spain & Portugal was on some sort of camino pilgrim route. We saw that shell sign everywhere.
The manager?/owner? of the campsite was wonderfully friendly and really helpful but spoke barely any English, we speak less than 3 words of Portuguese so we had a fun time finding out about the local sites and recommended restaurants. We seem to think that he has agreed to pick us up in town later on that evening. (Holding thumbs)
We headed up to the Sanctuary which luckily enough was close to the campsite. Good thing because Chris might have divorced me if I had made him climb up all 650 steps! The church is lovely and we had a quick look around.
We saw lots of people driving into the car park with big plastic containers and filling them from the spring which is supposedly holy water that can cure all ills. We drank it and it tasted lovely. Not sure it cured us of anything. . . And then we did the lazy way and walked down all 650 steps. On each landing they had Azulejos. Remember I told you about them. Well these are absolutely amazing and I will put the pics below but really it was hard to choose which pics to show you. The view when you get to the bottom and look back up is quite something.
After the long walk down the 650 steps Chris very kindly treated me to a wine tasting at the conveniently situated Bodega. All that walking makes one thirsty. It was pleasant enough especially coupled with the meat and cheese platter to accompany it.
We took a stroll around the town centre and loved all the pastry shops serving pastries and coffee. Between 5 and 7pm is when everyone seems to sit down for a social chitchat and catch up. We joined in with a cortada and some mini pastries. And then promptly at 7, the coffee shops close and the restaurants open. After our coffees we wandered into the cathedral and the museum, we were impressed with what the museum has to offer but as it was 5 min to closing time I got Chris to commit to visiting the next morning.
Dinner that night was interesting. We had made an arrangement with the driver to collect us after dinner but we didn’t want to make him fetch us too late. He had recommend a place but when we got there at 7.30 it looked pretty closed. And did I mention it was raining. This time we did have the umbrella but still standing in the rain waiting for a restaurant to open was not our idea of fun. Just as we were scrambling around on Google to find somewhere else, the lights turned on and the door was opened. In we went, living Chris’ nightmare of being the first person in a restaurant! The old guy was still setting up but he was quite cheerful and knew enough English for us to order. We worried we would be the only table that night but no, just too early. After 8 a few others trickled in as well as a few single guys to eat dinner and watch football on the ever present TV. Our meal was nice. Not the best meal we have had in Portugal,but nice.
Next day we had a fairly early start and headed down to the museum. We had scouted out a place to park ScootR but the tom-tom and Rose led us a bit astray so we weren’t in Chris’ good books! We got there eventually.
Next door to the museum was a large, very well run tourist office where we collected some maps and got info on wine tasting and spots to see in the Douro valley. Sounded great.
The museum is worth every cent. Very well put together with many interesting exhibits. A lot of religious artifacts that Bishops of Lamego had collected over the years, he clearly loved the good stuff.
There were huge, ancient tapestries like I have never seen and entire chapels that had been rescued and reconstructed. The Roman artifacts were interesting and everything was well labeled and informative. The culmination being a collection of….. my new favourite things! Azulejos. See pics below. Really beautiful colours.
Next thing we back on the road and driving into the Douro proper.
We had had no plans to explore the Douro as we did not think we had time but actually is was really close. The scenery is quite literally breath taking and the narrow road wound down amongst the vineyards to the valley with the wide Douro River snaking though it. This is where the famous Port wine originates and the tourist lady had recommended a Quinta (wine farm) for us to visit, we arrived just as they were closing for lunch, which kinda suited us as the place looked as if it was designed for Asian and American tourists with lots of money and tours all booked way in advance. Not a Parsleyspursuits kinda thing, the setting however was lovely and we took a few pics. Back into the van and now we plan to visit another town and find somewhere to eat. It’s late already but we decide to fit in this stop along the way. ( just adding that this was Chris’ idea)
We drove all along the narrow road hugging the Douro seeing a staggering number of signs for quintas, some of these farms could have been no larger than our campervan!
After some quick research we chose to stop at the village of Pinhão, with a very picturesque train station?? Quite a well known station and we really weren’t the only idiots taking pics but still the village (and station) was a good choice.
A lot of the tourists visiting the Douro region come by boat from Porto. This means ferry boats of 200 plus people all drinking unlimited port disgorging their passengers along the route. Lucky Pinhão is beyond where the Douro is navigable by these big boats so we recommend traveling a bit further up the river. In Pinhão we also managed to venture into the butchery with the world’s best salesman as the owner. The shop is minute and whilst squashed in the queue behind 3 other ladies, trying to decide if we were going to buy something , he handed over a few slices of sausage to try. This sausage is first soaked in wine and then smoked so it’s really tasty. Of course we said give us some of that. But then he cuts a few more slices of some other salami and hands it over ( all this whilst chopping and filleting turkey breasts for the lady in front of us) so of course we had to have some of that. Then it was a bit of cheese and then some strong home made liquor. Well we left with 2 lots of sausage, cheese and oh what about some bread! Whoops it’s in the bag. As I say best salesmen ever. I think our friends Richard and Gillian may have needed the entire day there to sample all the wares and definitely would have left laden! After a quick tostado ( and Port for Rose) we had to leave. We were now running very late ( all my fault of course) and had to double back to get back onto our road to Spain.
Did I mention we are sleeping in Spain tonight?