On the way back it was our intention to camp in the Douro valley to visit the dramatic landscape within which the vineyards for port and wine production are situated. we had then intended to relocate a little more to the North to visit Guimaraes and Braga.
However we had stayed longer on FH than anticipated and so camped only at Lamego in the Douro area.
Our campsite sat high above the town, around the rear of a hill, atop which sat the town’s most famous landmark.
The site was small but had a lovely bar in a superb setting – and sent out to a local restaurant for food to be eaten in the bar, when we enjoyed 2 very different bacalau (salted cod) dishes.
Our campsite was just a 5 minute walk from Santuario de Nossa Senhora dos Remedios the Shrine of Our Lady of the Remedies).
A religious site had occupied this “mountain top” site (a big hill really, but they insist on calling it a mountain!) since the 14th century, but the present day shrine was constructed between 1760 and 1905.
Many websites talk about the shrine and the 686 steps leading up to it, constructed in a baroque fashion – but nowhere (not even Wikepedia) tells us what miraculous remedies were witnessed, or when!
However we can testify that this is a well visited place. We arrived on foot from our campsite at 8.40am. We inspected the top of the stairs and we went in the shrine, taking a few silent moments of reflection. It was a peaceful and most lovely place. We had only seen a solitary nun crossing the front of the shrine at this point.
Another nun arrived to open the shop at 9.05am. She was 5 minutes late but wore a lovely smile so we didn’t scold her. But as we left the shop at 9.15am the first two of the day’s coaches had arrived and were spewing out pilgrims by the dozen!
By the time we drove out of Lamego at around 10.30 (having driven into town to inspect the lower reaches of the stairway) we had seen over a dozen coaches, and no doubt there had been many more as we prepared for the day back at the campsite.
Our trip into the Douro Valley followed a road that we had read was voted in the top ten roads in the world (the N222 between Pesoa de Regua and Pinhao).
It was certainly quite dramatic in places, but we initially suspected that the readership of the particular publication undertaking the survey don’t get off the beaten track much!It did get better as we approached Pinhao, and we left the road to climb the long private road into the Sandeman estate.
We weren’t interested in port but were looking for table wine. There are, apparently 196,000 hectares of vineyards in the Douro region, of which 40% are grown for port production. Like most of the port houses, the company owning Sandeman also produce table wines.
Unlike our experiences in France and at some of the smaller wineries in Spain and Portugal, here at the big named producers one has to pay for the priviledge of tasting wine before buying it by the bottle.
However the surroundings of Sandeman’s grand, modern tasting room made up for having to pay!
We had lunch in Pinhao (near the boats pictured below) before heading onto the narrow roads the weave and climb around the contours on the notrthern side of the Douro river. Now we had found roads that really deserved to be in the top 10!
We stopped at another producer who allowed us to taste their wines without charge! We found them way off the beaten track and will remember this scenery whenever we drink their wines (and Sandeman’s) over the next 10 years or so!
Our month at San Adrian marina was drawing to a close and so we upped tent and headed home – calling in on the way to visit the old town of Guimaraes – another example of remarkably well intact medieval centre and castle. We could only stay a short while, but there is plenty more in these parts for another road trip, another year!
Back at the marina we sorted out the Berlingo (much stuff stored in the boat came back on the van and vice versa) and took it back to Xufre, returning with just a few days to get ready to go back to sea – days that we shared with Charles and Di (“don’t call me Camilla”) of Astraia, visiting a local restaurant and sharing tales.
Coming shortly – a sailing blog!!!