Into the Interior – Mountains & Viseu
It was with a bit of a gut wrench that we left Almeida in the morning to contune our journey through Portugal. I had really taken to the charms of the fortified village. And Marley really didn’t want to leave when the shepherd started herding sheep across the Aire right in front of her!
But such is the nature of what we do. This world is so full of beautiful, incredible places. And the more I travel the more that hits home to me. I feel it stirring something in my innards. Some movement, some change, in who I am. In what I know.
Marley does not want to leave Almeida!
Perhaps someday I will meet a place that can hold me. Where the tug to stay outdoes the tug to leave. It would be a nice thing I fancy. To feel that way about a single place. But for me that place is the road. And much as I would have liked to stay in Almeida for a while…I wanted to leave even more.
With no particular place to be now that our daughter had cancelled her trip to Spain we decided to make Porto our next destination. However it may not have been all that far in kilometres but our Co-Pilot Sat Nav App seemed to think it was going to take us a lot of hours driving to get there. Far too much for one day.
Hmmm. A quick scour of our park4night App for Motorhome Stopovers, and Google Maps for distance monitoring and we decided to aim for a halfway point at Viseu. I wasn’t sure how interesting the town would be, but we figured the driving would be. There had to be a few hairpins en route to account for all that extra time!
Our two previous visits to Portugal had both been to the Eastern Algarve. And beautiful though it is, for me, I felt I had not really seen Portugal until this drive through the Interior.
The roads snaked to and fro. Up and down green and rocky hills. Lush wild landscapes that surprised me by how habitated they were. I’d expected more wilderness. More empty, abandoned villages. More dilapidated ruined cottages.
These things are there to be sure. There is many a corner of Paradise just waiting to be claimed in these hills. But, although peaceful and rural, you won’t struggle to find a neighbour within a short drive either.
The views here suck every bit of stress right out. Gone.
And so we oohed and aahed our way all the way to Viseu. Extolling the virtues of one plot of land after another, with an hour’s break to walk Marley and sip cheap coffee in a Portuguese filling station.
As always Marley draws attention everywhere we go. Here in Portugal, as in Spain, people are familiar with the big, guardian flock, mountain dogs. And always curious to see a couple of Scots travelling with one. Or anyone at all travelling with one that isn’t walking by the road with a flock of sheep I think!
We practice our few words of Portuguese we’ve been working on snce the border. Adding – “Cão de montanha grega.” – Greek mountain dog – to our necessary vocabulary for the journey.
My beautiful boys. Jay & Iggy. Coffee time!
Coffee drunk we pushed on with the journey, with the second half of the drive being much a repeat of the first. We were in no hurry, soaking in the views and dawdling happily along until we finally reached Viseu just as the sun began to drop slowly down from the sky.
Although the sun was hot when it was up the air was still cold up here. In the evening, or in the shade, and a jacket or warm top was a must. So we scurried to get out of Iggy and explore before it got too dark and cold.
The Aire was free ( 40.664987, -7.916813) and located at the bottom of the long hill up to the city centre and Cathedral. I have somehow lost my photos of it, but it is simple places set aside in a very large car park by a busy roundabout. The Repsol round the corner does LPG at decent prices, and had all the adaptors as Repsol generally do.
For those without dogs there is a Funicular nearby that takes you to the top of the hill. Sadly they don’t allow dogs on it so that is the only information we have.
My first, middle, and last, impressions of Viseu were of a busy, practical city. A place where people come to work. A place without too much money. Where lives are lived and tourism is not of any great importance to the average citizen.
The long hill, leads to a plaza where folk sit to chat away the close of day. Long streets lead off into the older “historical” section, with some quain, pretty buildings, and the cobbled area around the Cathedral.
A pretty fountain gushes enthusiastically in a busy intersection and a pretty church draws God’s children to health or a heart attack up a mountainous hump of steep steps. ( Though naturally the Cathedral hill is much higher.)
A small but pretty park leads off to the side, and we wander through the white and pink creamy blossoms of the Magnolia trees. Stopping for a light lunch at the gelataria by the pond. The Portuguese mosquitoes were ravenously lethal as always, and obviously oblivious to it being February, quite cold in the shade, and therefore definitely not mosquito season.
Thankfully I am ridiculously paranoid about bitey things in Portugal ( I always get massive reactions to bitey things here.) So my Smidge was out of my bag and spraying every inch of us in seconds. Midges, mosquitoes and ticks. Works on them all and we never leave home without it.
Home made Bird houses in one of the park’s magnolia trees. Beautiful.
Finally it was time for one last haul uphill to check out the Viseu cathedral. And by the time we arrived full night was upon us. I love to see cathedrals at night. Lights shining from stained glass. Facades artfully lit. I often wish they would turn the lights off so we could all see the stars…but still…it is, unarguably, pretty.
I struggled to say the same for Viseu. Imposing…yes. Pretty? Not so much. Maybe we were just spoiled after the enormous splendour of the Spanish cathedrals. But I got the feeling that the Portuguese christians had been of a more pious ilk than their neighbours. That God here was more to be feared than adored.
Jay started stumbling a bit on the cobbles and we stopped at a last bistro in a pretty plaza nearby for some supper and a drink before home.
The young, friendly, chatty staff were good fun with perfect English. The food and drinks were delicious and ridiculously cheap, and Marley especially loved the little serrano type ham and cheese baked roll you can see in the photo.
It was a good day. A busy day. Viseu has a few ( just a few) nice things to see if you look for them. And the people were nice, and real, and worth meeting.
I wouldn’t go out of my way to go there. But it’s a bit of “real” Portugal. And I’m glad that I went.