Three days of wandering on the roads of North of Portugal starting from Porto, going along the Atlantic coastline, browsing Douro riverbanks and deepening in the surprisingly beautiful and picturesque countryside
It is already a tradition for me to find a place where to escape the winter. One of the main conditions is the sea proximity. If last year I chose Tenerife, this year I was again at the Atlantic but, this time, I was watching it from the Portuguese shores. Exactly!!! Portugal was my playing ground this winter and I loved it! Every minute of it! Every mile of almost 3000km driven through this surprisingly beautiful country. Because I am telling you this, I was not expecting to be so impressed by its natural beauty!!!!
The first stage of this trip took me to Porto. Now, when I look back, I can say I like it more then Lisbon. Probably because being smaller it was easier to handle or maybe being the first place I have arrived to, the pleasure of discovering it made it memorable. Either way, Porto will always remain in my heart as one of the places I want to return to.
Having to discover an entire country I choose to rent a car. Probably more expensive than using the public transportation but since I do not like to depend on schedules and to be conditionate by it, I chose the freedom given by having your own means of transportation. From my point of view the best choice if you want to be able to see as much as possible in a limited time.
I had #fordfiesta on diesel which proven to be a good companion and the personnel from #goldcarportugal was very helpful. People are the grates asset of Portugal. They are not nice because they have to but because they are nice people. Goldcar Portugal is not paying for this article so my opinion is genuine. The car was fully insured so they did not ask for a deposit. I also had the device which allows you to go on the tall roads and be charged without having to look for the change in your pocket and waste time when you exit.
Off-season go directly to the counter and negotiate your terms, you will have better rates. In the full-season better book in advance to ensure availability.
Make sure the terms of the rentals include the tool roads device as well.
Don’t use the tool roads because are expensive and with a good GPS you can go anywhere you want using the national roads.
Before coming to Portugal take an updated GPS with you or download one of the apps with offline maps which can function as a GPS. I used #Osmand, I can’t say it was the best but definitely, it helped me a lot.
If you have a car look for a hotel on the outskirts for better rates, the parking is free and available, most of the hotels in Portugal charge for the parking, especially those placed in the heart of the city, it is easier to go out of the city also.
Porto, it is a magnificent city and this can be demonstrated by the abundance of pictures I took. Every corner was inspiring me and despite the cloudy weather the constant soft rain I still walked on its streets, breath the air opened wide my eyes and ears to be able to experience every sight and every sound.
Probably the weather was what made me feel that everything was reminding me of England, the England I love. But the colors of the houses and the specific architecture gave to the city a special lure I was captivated of. It was something I have never seen before and I was trying to figure out from where it had its influences.
It is one of the cities landmarks and you should either walk on it from one bank to another or take the tram. You will love it! Try this experience during the day but also during the night and I assure you..it is amazing.
I am not going to advice you where to go and what to see in Porto because I think everybody is entitled to its own experience.
I am showing you pictures because I think will give a good indication of what to expect while being there. Personally, I was fascinated by the tiles adorning the facades making it so unique, being one of the characteristics of traditional Portuguese architecture.
I could write more about Porto, I am considering it a fabulous city, but since my article is also about the surrounding areas as well, I should move on then.
Sunday morning and the sun was breaking through the clouds. I was happy and I could not help not to take a shot of the remaining droplets on the windshield.
I was going to wander around Porto and the direction I took it was of course towards the ocean. I missed badly and I was needing that affluence of salty smell in my nostrils.
Of course, it came with wind strokes as well but to me, it did not matter. I was too happy to feel the cold.
Followed the road along the coastline till I reached for Villa do Conde. What I did not know then was that Villa do Conde along with Guimaraes and the castle Aquilar de Sousa were the places of utmost importance for the Reconquista.
Along with Porto is one of the gems of the North. Considered the place where Portugal was born “Aqui nasceu Portugal” it contains in its features the Portuguese spirit.
Starting with the architectural treats and continuing with the historical events which took place here over the centuries.
It gave me the sensation of walking in a real-life fairytale and walking on the walls of the fortress allowed me to see the city surrounding it.
The rain was again present when I walked on those walls but it was that element which made everything to be so realistic. I admired the moss and lichen covered crenellation and my imagination flew back centuries ago. It was surreal and again I was wondering “Is it Portugal or is it the rain which is startling my imagination? Or are both combined?“
Portugal took me by surprise because although everybody told me that it is a beautiful country I came without having expectations. I was amazed! It was only the first day…
The next day brought some unexpected sun. I went West following the North bank of the Douro River wanting to see the famous vineyards.
What started as a search for the vineyards ended up by being a chase for Aquilar do Sousa Castle. Left the Douro River Valley and deepened into a marvelous world. While chasing for the ruins of a castle where the knights were battling the moors for their freedom the road was taking me on Rota do Romanico. I did not know at that time that this precise route is taking you through the romanesque vestiges.
Portuguese countryside was covered with a freshly green carpet. The few rays of light breaking through the clouds made that green color be so bright. Camellias were in bloom and everywhere I looked it was the sign of the Spring.
It was magical!!! With every mile, a pittoresque and picturesque countryside was revealing to me. I was mesmerized by that beauty and I was sure I was stepping in the Wonderland.
I forgot all about the castle I was looking for and I was just wandering on the countryside roads. There were so many things I wanted to see and I realized I have such a short time at my disposal. Tomorrow I was supposed to go to Algarve and 635 km journey was ahead of me.
I returned to Porto following the south banks of Douro river driving through the same enchanting countryside. I realized that my trip was only scratching the surface and there is so much to be seen. So many trails I could walk on. So many stories I still had to listen to and discover. Nobody was telling me that Porto is, in fact, an entrance to a region which has so many alluring places hidden in the valley or in the forest or behind the trees on top of the hills. Nobody was telling me that Portugal is not just beautiful but is a picture perfect mysterious beauty…
Maybe I do have an advice for you after all… While in Porto, do not just stay there or sail few mile upstream on Douro Valley by boat. Take a car and go further west and deepen in the countryside! Follow Rota do Romanico! Discover the lost villages! Be enchanted by the flowers! Loose yourself in the forests! Drink the wine! Eat the food at the local restaurants. Devour the most delicious pastries at the local Pastelarias! …and most of all Live and Enjoy Portugal!!!!