Viana do Castelo
On the 8th November 2017 at 10am we said goodbye to Baiona. As we headed out past the headland and the Castle above, the sun shone and although there was a swell was 2.7 metres we were looking forward to the journey and finally arriving in Portugal! As we passed the boarder between Spain & Portugal , with excitement, we changed our curtesy flag from yellow and red to green and red.
We had heard a number of horror stories about the entrances to some of the West Coast ports of Portugal but the weather seemed kind and we were optimistic. When we arrived at our destination, Viana do Castello, there was breaking surf at the entrance to the river heading in to the marina. We turned on the engine, packed away the sails and put all our faith in Money Penny being able to ride the waves into the calm of the river mouth. Money Penny became a giant surf board…..surfing at 12 knots as we entered the river!!
As we approached the marina entrance The Ponte Eiffel Bridge crossed the river ahead of us. This railroad iron bridge was designed by Gustave Eiffel and completed in 1878 .
The Santa Luzia Sactuary dominates the top of the hill overlooking Viana do Castello. This monumental Temple of the 20th century is beautiful both inside and out. We took a funicular railway up to the top of the hill where the views of the river and coastline were amazing. The interior decoration and the stained glass window inside the Temple were beautiful and there was a magnificent display of flowers on the alter. We spent an hour walking around the hilltop area before returning to the town.
We left Viana do Castello two days later and continued South. Porto was our next port of call.
After 36.8 miles, an average of 6.4 knots and max 12.1 knots (probably surfing one of ‘those’ waves!) we entered the River Douro. Porto on the banks of the River Douro is the second largest city in Portugal. It doesn’t have a marina so we chose Douro Marina just after the entrance to the river. On ‘check in’ the friendly staff explained that as part of our stay we were entitled to a free tour of one of the Port houses. We would take up there offer tomorrow! For now, we decided to make our way in to the City to look around.
We took a ferryboat across the river and then caught one of the Victorian trams that run into the city….much more fun than a modern bus! Porto is known for its many stately bridges and port wine production. There are narrow streets housing old merchant’s houses and cafes. As it was early evening by the time we arrived in the City, we sat in a riverside bar and watched the world go by. Looking across at Vila Nova de Gaia (the town on the opposite banks of the river), the Port Houses were visible as their names were lit up. Famous Port houses such as Calem, Ramos Pinto, Offley, Sandeman and of course Tayor’s and Graham’s. The City was alive with both young and old and the atmosphere superb.n
The following day we returned to the City, this time in a taxi. The free tour was to a lesser known House, Churchill’s. Churchill’s, in contrast to most of the other Port Houses who have been in existence for centuries, has only been in existence since 1981. It was founded by John Graham of the Graham ‘port’ family. He named the Company after his wife Caroline Churchill (no relation to Winston!). On arrival we were given two different wines to taste, before being shown around the storage units and given the history of the Company and details of production. We were then given a number of different ports of varying ages to try. On departing, ‘very tipsy’ was an understatement
We spent the rest of the day exploring both Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia. Lunch was in a city centre café and being adventurous we acceded to the waiters recommendation and had the local speciality – three types of spicy sausage in a round of bread covered in gravy with an egg on top. Different is all I can say. After a long wander and as darkness fell we left a restaurant to walk along the riverside and discovered that an historic car rally was due to set off from the area. Alistair was in Heaven with a vast array of classic Porsche, Fords, Mini’s et al in superb concourse condition. We stood and watched all the cars set off for the night rally on the roads surrounding Porto. Another taxi and ‘home’ to bed.
The next two stops on our journey were ‘quick overnighters’! Aveira at anchor and Figueiro do Foz. We had now travelled another 73 miles since Porto and were on route to Nazaire. We had heard some horror stories about this mecca for surfers regarding the size of the waves. If you google Nazaire you will see what we mean! Some are reported as 100 ft high and we were about to enter the harbour! Surprisingly for the time of year the sea conditions were calm and we were left wondering what all of the fuss was about. The waves are caused by a deep natural channel that stretches all the way to the shoreline. This can be seen on the photograph of our GPS below.
During a walk along the beautiful sandy beach we encountered women selling dried fish. There were stands behind them where the fish from today’s catch were drying out in the sunshine.
We enjoyed our stay in Nazaire but this looked like it could be an extremely busy town during the height of the season and perhaps not as relaxing.
We left Nazaire and headed for Peniche for a quick overnight stop before moving on to Oeiras at the entrance to the Tagus River (Lisbon) …………..to be continued!