Exploring inland Iberia
We have now been based in Lagos for more than 6 weeks and it has begun to feel like another long term layover! Meeting up unexpectedly with some lovely friends who happened to be berthed right near us was a bonus and we had a terrific time with the family on board for 10 days. Watching 5 year old Olivia rowing our inflatable dinghy with huge determination was a high spot, as was playing on the beach with all the crew when the weather was warm enough.
Grandfather in charge:
On Lagos town beach:
Recently we bit the bullet and booked Goldcrest into the nearby boatyard for some needed attention. We ended up spending a week “on the hard” and during that time our copper coated bottom was repainted in patches. There was also some minor woodwork repairs and skipper worked hard replacing anodes, checking stopcocks etc. We also polished the whole blue hull again, so we are hoping she will look good and slip through the water more smoothly this summer.
After all that, we decided to treat ourselves to a road trip which would also justify our long stay in one corner of Portugal. We have always wanted to visit the Palaeolithic rock art of the valley of the Rio Coa near the Spanish border – the largest known open array of Palaeolithic rock art in the world. We hired a car for a week and drove all the way to the other end of Portugal, through gorgeous countryside awash with wildflowers. Fields of deep purple Mediterranean lavender were a highlight. En-route north we stopped for the first night in the hilltop town of Marvao, just 10km from the Spanish border. It was a glorious spot, with the whole “mountain-top eyrie” enclosed within ancient walls and a perfect castle at one end. The winding streets of bright white houses were delightful and the views were to die for. It was a great time to visit as it was very peaceful before the tourist onslaught of high summer.
Marvao- looking down from the castle:
Braganca castle & old town:
After a night in the far north town of Braganca, we headed to the Coa valley for our guided tour to the rock art. The site we were driven to down rutted lanes was a magical valley where you could quite imagine early man would have set up home. Despite its raining at the time of our visit, the up close views of deer, goats and horses etched in the schist rock around 20,000 years ago were quite wonderful.
Coa valley, paleolithic site:
Some rock art:
We then drove into Spain as Lindsay had the city of Salamanca in her sights and it was not too far away. In the end we spent 2 nights there as we were entranced by this beautiful city of golden sandstone with its incredible old and “new” cathedrals, ancient university, vast Plaza Mayor and magnificent Renaissance buildings everywhere. We also made the most of being back in delicious tapas land.
Salamanca from the hotel:
Magnificent carved frontage of Convento St Estaban:
We ended our trip with a break journey night back in Portugal just outside the World Heritage fortified frontier town of Elvas, famous for having the most sophisticated 17th century military architecture in Europe. The extensive battlements were a good place to stretch our legs and we also viewed the old castle, spectacular aqueduct and a delightful little mid 16th century octagonal church with painted marble columns and tiles covering every surface.
Elvas aqueduct & visitor:
We returned to Lagos on Sunday afternoon after a trip of 1000 miles and felt we now had a much better acquaintance with inland Portugal. The cork oak meadows of the southern Alentejo region were so pretty, but most of the country seemed to be extremely lovely. We weren’t always lucky with the weather and had some really heavy rain in Salamanca, but it didn’t spoil our enjoyment and taught us never to go away again without waterproofs!
We’ve now got a couple of weeks to get ready for our adventure out into the Atlantic. It’s nearly 1,000 miles to the Azores, so the longest trip we’ve done for a few years. I think we are mostly ready – apart from our new mainsail which is still not back after being re-cut by North Sails.