We have had a lovely time in the Rioja region of Spain, but the time has come to leave Spain and begin the Portugal part of our adventure. We have a drive of some 550km to do, with Lamego in the Douro Valley as our destination.
The landscape changes quite quickly after we leave La Rioja, and becomes increasingly dry as we travel west. Large tracts of what we assume are grain fields stretch into the distance. We also see fields of dead sunflowers – not sure what they intend to do with them. There is little to see, and the small villages we pass through are virtually deserted, so Hazel and I take the opportunity for some resting of our eyes time.
Our first stop, for a much needed coffee, is the town of Palencia. We had a wander around the market and the town square, where we happened to stumble upon a wedding party. The bride looked gorgeous, and was obviously so happy to be getting married.
There is nothing to entice us to stop for lunch, so we continue driving until we cross over the border into Portugal. The boys have spent several hours perusing websites to try and work out how to deal with the Portugese toll roads. The general verdict is that trying to find an Easy Toll is the answer, and as luck would have it, the first toll we encounter has an Easy Toll booth for foreigners. You insert your credit card, key in the licence plate number and apparently you are then covered for the tolls on most roads as the cameras note the licence plate and deduct the toll directly from your credit card. How about that CityLink.
Close to our border entry is the Portugese city of Chaves, which, like every other town we have come across in both Spain and Portugal, appears completely closed. It is 4.00pm in the afternoon on a Saturday, and virtually nothing is open. We eventually find a cake shop, so go in for (a not very good) coffee and both a savoury and sweet pastry. The former is terrible, but the latter – our first Portugese tart on home soil – isn’t bad. We think we might have to try one in every town in order to award Best Portugese Tart Of the trip!
We find the beautiful tiled church in Chaves, but stay only long enough to take a photo as there seems to be a service about to commence as there are rows of women in the pews, and much murmering happening.
From Chaves we drive on to our final destination, Quinta de Tourais in Lamego ( but actually closer to Peso da Regua ). This is a mix of family home, winery and accommodation run by the very genial Fernando and Manuela. The rooms are lovely, and we have a beautiful courtyard to sit in under a pomegranate tree, and the use of a large dining room and kitchen should we want it – plus, an honour system to help ourselves to the wine. We quickly put our bags in the room and settle in under the pomegranate tree on this very balmy evening with a bottle of their excellent rose.
Fernando then drives us into Regua ( a 10 minute drive, if that) so that we can dine at the family owned restaurant, where Manuela works the stoves and one of their sons is the waiter. The food is regional, simple, home cooking – just what we wanted, and very enjoyable. There are only 6 tables, and two sittings a night.
We walk to the railway station where we catch a taxi the short drive back to the Quinta, where we fall gratefully into bed. We will plan our Douro Valley adventures in the morning.