Viana do Castelo

Magnetic Attraction
Roger and Margaret Pratt
Thu 12 Sep 2013 21:18

12 September 2013 – Viana do Castelo



What a find: the most perfect little town, with history, presence and friendship.  And just as if I lived in Lubeck, I’d live in Purgatory; so in Portugal I’d have an account with the Bank of the Holy Spirit.  Just in Case!

The marina sits just under a two-tier bridge: cars above, trains beneath, designed by Gustave Eiffel of tower fame.  In theory, the entrance is impeded by a foot bridge; but this year it’s been left open.   It’s the economy, stupid?  The marina was full, but there’s a waiting pontoon in the river, and we’ve been very happy to stay out here for a couple of nights.  It’s right in the centre of town. 

The marina team, Carlos and Renato, speak excellent English, and are founts of information and advice.  They both recommended the same restaurant – the Maria de Perre – and we went there to eat Bacalao (salt cod) for lunch today.  We had hoped for a local wifi signal to camp on to, and were recommended to go to a bar near the mooring.  The wifi was weak but the wine excellent – as Roger said, it went straight to the head!  Two (large) glasses of white wine and wifi for €3.80! 

The cost of using UK mobile tariffs for internet access is phenomenal, and we’d decided to buy a Portuguese SIM card once we arrived.  There’s an air-conditioned mall above the train station, with shops open til 11pm.  We’ve got a Vodafone card for 10€, and added 1Gb of internet for just under €17 for a month.  Not as good value as the wind card in Greece, but it’ll do!  There was a Bertrand’s bookshop in the mall as well, and we each selected a “book of words.” Roger chose Collins “Easy Portuguese” and I chose a ”Guia de Conversacao Ingles.”  Mirror images of the same challenges.

The town has an amazing history of importing fish and exporting port wine, and had great wealth.  The old buildings have been restored beautifully, and have been built round central atria to give light, whilst maintaining cool shade.  The tourist info office is housed in a former hospice for pilgrims to S Iago d’Compostela.

The town is dominated by the Church of S Lucia, high up on the mountain overlooking the City.  There is a funicular railway that goes from the station up to the church.  We’d been told by our Danish neighbours on “Frigg” that the funicular wasn’t working so we climbed the 717 steps up (yes, we did count them!) and felt duly worked out – only to discover that (a) the railway was working; and (b) the church was closed.

But wonderful, wonderful views over the town.  Here’s one…

Just as we left the Islas Cies, the wind instrument gave up the ghost.  Roger climbed the mast at the anchorage in Baiona, despite the wind, and brought it down.  The general rule is: one hand for you and the other for the boat.  But with one hand taken up by protecting the device, there was no hand left for himself and he got pretty bashed coming down, despite best efforts.  The problem was that the screw clamp that attaches the instrument to the masthead fitting had cracked and broken.

 It’s been araldited together and reinstalled successfully, but not before we’d turned the interior of the boat inside out to try to find the spare.  We’re both sure it’s aboard – but can we find it?  Inventory malfunction!

On to Povoa de Vazim tomorrow – Friday 13th.