643-649: Along the Duoro and Into the Hills

643 – Tuesday 28th February 2017:  Airport and R’n’R

Sadly, we drove Robert to the airport at the end of his weeks holiday – we think he enjoyed it and was not being polite!

Off to ‘Jumbo’ supermercado – for a big shop…  K took off with our ‘granny’ trolley. One and a half hours later – she appeared at a far corner of the car park – looking fraught!  I sprinted (?) to her aid on my white charger (well, my old running shoes, actually) – and took the heavily laden trolley – weighing 4 tonnes – the same weight as Jez!  She had walked 3 sides of the car park to find us – with elongated arms.  Unpacked, we returned to Porto parking by the Douro, again.  Walking into town aborted, some blogging, supper and early to beddy byes, zzzzzz

644 – Wednesday 1st March:  Opticians and Duoro Meet Up

Excited – we were off to meet Frances and Edward – we met originally at Port D’Empocles on the sunny south coast of Sicilia – on New Years Eve 2015. Since then, we have joined up with them quite a few times – they are several-months-at-a-time  motorhomers – but this year sadly, they are only away for one month.  Peso Da Regua was the destination – an overnight parking splendidly equipped with all services including electric – for Euro3 per night! – right by the Douro with fabulous views – and bridges.   All French vans in residence – 15 pitches – with only 1 spare after we arrived – E and F had secured ours next to them – champion!  Has the reader ever heard of “Champion the Wonder Horse”?  Gene Autry – in 79 films between 1935 and 1952? Ok – so you’re too young – you probably haven’t heard of Roy Rogers and “Trigger” either, then?  “Roy of the Rovers”?  James – you’re revealing your age – best to desist, now…

K cooked her usual Haute Cuisine – and we supped – a lot…. Then, lots of zzzzzzs.

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View from a promontory on the Douro – the aire is sandwiched between two attractive bridges.  Fully serviced i.e. drain under, own water and electric – all for EUR3.

645 – Thursday 2nd March:  Peso da Regua and Port Tasting

Plan for today – train to Pinhao – hoping OK9 would be accepted as a passenger…. At the station, we were informed – dogs only with a muzzle – no way, Jose – not for our Oscar!  His pervious owner muzzled him, despite the soreness it created on his nose … he now has a slight bald spot which we apply sun lotion to!  So, E and F embarked for Pinhao – and we perambulated – coffee at an adjacent cafe.  Up so many hills to view the town of Regua. 

K had identified a port tasting location – does she have a nose for port?  Not a red porty nose, though….   E and F were easily persuaded to come with us for the port tasting – free – as we made purchases!

Frances cooked supper – and a bit less poosy bort – sorry, boozy port!


You may have picked up that I’m rather fond of the Portugesue Ajuelos … a lot around the town with pics of the grapes being harvested, trampled etc.

P1130554J does not often have O on the lead when I’m around, but it was such a long steep climb up … he volunteered to have O tow him!  So noble 🙂

646 – Friday 3rd March:  Paeleolithic Plaudits

En route to our Paeleolithic rock carvings visit – z-bends – and up we go again further into the hills. The route to the destination took us through narrow and narrower cobbled streets (are we back in Sicilia?) – I had to get out and check.  An elderly lady told us in fluent French that it was ok – E and F in the vanguard – finally, safe parking and the Reception area/shop – another charming Portuegese lady – fluent French again!  Garbed up for all the elements (see photo) and our guide Louiz took us in his 4×4 6km up and down the 6km of rocky tracks.  There are 30km of these ancient carvings (15-20,000 years ago!) – he could only show a fraction in the allotted time. Without his help and diagrams, they could be lines in stone – but he brought them to life. Had the planned dam been fully built, the treasures would have been lost forever.  Another gem of Portugal. Unesco and World Heritage site. O stayed put in our charabanc. As we drove past in the jeep, he was in position on the dash, still and he completely blanked us with his fixed stare in the direction he’d seen us walk!

The Cao Museu was immense – cleverly designed partly underground – I have not seen so much in situ concrete for years. Wonderful galleries of exhibits – and – yes – more coffee (and cake)!

We had intended to go a little further for our nightly bivouac – but the Museu car park was clear and looked inviting – we asked at reception – and no problem with overnighting. One of the most peaceful places for our sleepovers….. Joined by a Portuguese van – unfortunately, they ran their engine during the late evening – beside Edward and Frances – inconsiderate….

A truly Paeleolithically plausible peripatetic pattern of purely pleasurable proportions!  Try saying that quickly – after 3 glasses of port!   Zzzz’s, again.

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Along the Douro – even pretty in the rain.  White farms with orange groves and terraced vineyards.

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You can tell how steep the slopes just by the vine layout .. less steep they run in lines down the hill, steeper they are terraced.  But then you look at how many rows of vine on each level.  And as we left the Douro and headed S into the hills, the vines were interspersed with oranges, olives and an abundance of in bloom almond trees.


Interesting parking at the reception centre for the Vale do Cao rock carving visitor centre … we were both essentially along the road, having had a few palpitations on the cobbled and narrow drive in.  Spot the almond blosoom … the pink is a better quality.  


Prepared for all weathers … well, the car dash had indicated only 4C!  I’d worried that the jeep would be open top and sided … a little relief.


Special view with an immaculate farm that would have been flooded had the dam gone ahead.


No idea until the lines explained and then the lightbulb moment … I can see it.


The natural lines of the rock were used.  This one’s a fish.


The valley was superbly tranquil with birds and the sound of the water.  The hut is for the security guard … similar lonesome job to a lighthouse keeper before they were all made automatic.


Part of the view from the coffee bar in the museum


647 – Saturday 4th March:  Foodies in Trancoso

From CoaMuseu – to Trancoso…..  On arrival at the parking – what did we see? A ‘Foodie’ Festival!  Did we go there?  Yup – and purchases included – cheese and cheese and cheese – and sausages!  we virtually lunched on the many tastings…live music with accordion player and singers.  Walkabout in town – moi as tour guide – sort of – Old Jewish Quarter – and castle with fantastic views from the top.

SatNaved to Celorico da Beira – home of ‘best’ Portuguese cheese – is there a ‘cheesey’ theme here, folks? Overnighted at Celorico.  Cheese = snoring for me! K


The sun shone and the blossom’s out at last night’s parking up at the museum.


A few views from the museum.


The terraces are protected by UNESCO.


Almond blossom.


What am I going to do with 4 sausages incl. a boudin noir (blood)?


F&E’s bread purchase.

648 – Sunday 5th March:  Sanghalos – and New Friends.

Bucacao National Forest – heavy mist – poor visibility.  But – luncheon a la Jez – and as if by magic – the mist lifted a little and rain cleared – for our walk. No rain but “raindrops kept falling on our heads” – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid – one of the best films ever!  Almost the last scene – Butch and Sundance are holed up in a stable – injured and prepared to shoot their way out…  Local Police Commander summons a few hundred extra troops – when they arrive the Captain of the reinforcements asks what size of army they are facing – local Commander says “Dos Hombres” – look of absolute incredulity on face of new Captain as he repeats “Dos Hombres???”  

Anyway, the walk was excellent and well worth the Euro7 for parking – nice job our tour organiser – Katherine!

We aire’d’ at Sanghalos – to meet (by prior arrangement) – Robyn and Kensey (Batdog – or Yoda).  Supper by K – for all in our charabanc…and wine, did we say? 


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Portas de Coimbra … should have been an amazing view …


Fonte Fria, casade fed by one of the Forest’s 6 springs. 


But you’re the other side and I ain’t swimming!




Wild primrose, wild strawberries, camellias and magnolias.


The Monastery; we did not go in but apparently Wellington slept in one of the cork lined cells.


Palace Hotel: Completed in 1907 a Neo Manueline folly built as a hunting lodge … Manuel II only visited briefly with his dancer mistress before being exiled in 1910.  We were not allowed in as a film crew were operating.

649 – Monday 6th March:  Wine, Art and Passion

K had booked on a tour of Aliance Underground – winery and art gallery par excellence for only EUR3 each!  6 beautiful galleries – our guide was Laura – perfect English again – the art ranged from African to Fossils to precious stones…  Brandy cellars and wine – they make an average of 15 million litres on an average year, depending on the harvest. Purchases? Moscatel (E and F bought the most exquisite 40 year old brandy – we had a taste…  

PM – major Jez cleaning and us – and an ‘adieu for now’ supper with Frances and Edward – see you in Espana – in a while….

Alianca Underground – Really worth visiting their wine and art venues

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The owner used the London Underground name and topographical map for his museum housed in the underground cellars. 

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All that remains of the lost tribe of Bura-Asinda-Sika, Niger, Africa, from 1500 years ago is the Funeral site.

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Funeral masks form many areas of Africa.

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We turned the corner … speechless.  The minerals collection is just stunning.  So, sorry a few pics of them!

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This is all one original fossil piece.

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Portuguese pottery … it’s all in the detail.

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I’d like this one for the large wooden box in the lounge please! 




Day 61 & 62: Alta Rock Carvings & Artic Explorings in Tromso

61 – Thursday

Despite sleeping the the car park, we did not make it into the museum until 11.30.  Run, Nork, put some washing into a bucket to soak and K showered.  Had thought we would be in and out of the museum in an hour, but 2.5 hrs later…  Rock carvings walk on board walks… avoiding the French and German tours (K able to pick up some info, duplicated by J from the guide book, so linguistic skills redundant!).  Helpful as some of the carvings were painted red so we could see them, otherwise it was a hide and seek / guessing game.  Although current thought is that they should remove the red paint as it is not an ‘authentic’ experience for people …. but we could bloody see them, so keep the red paint!  The museum also had exhibitions about rock carvings, stuffed animals of the area, clothes and a downhill ski jumper (J the sportsman had not heard of him).


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More difficult to see … discovered as a workman plonked a post in the middle!

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Views from the Alta Rock carvings site.

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Thankfully stuffed as over 7 foot tall!


Lunch in the car park and then off in the direction of Tromso.  A slow drive with the bendy roads and some serious road works as they blasted another carriage way out of the rocks down to the sea.  Had to keep reminding ourselves that it IS the sea and not a lake.  BUT seriously amazing scenery.  Fjords with houses and fishing nets / boats, snow capped peaks …. really special.

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Parked up in a car park looking out onto snowy mountains, but not put the heating on … yet.  Washing rinsed through, another load on and a frustrating call from Apple to sort out missing iTunes purchases … call number 2, both referred to Technical and now rescheduled for tomorrow.  Ho hum.

62 – Friday: Tromso and Arctic Explorings

A scenic (where isn’t?) drive which included two ferry crossing and significant expenditure.  The Sat nav had taken us the shortest route …. only the ferries cost a stunning £100+.  Note to selves:  check sat nav route and do a cost analysis on ferries vs driving the long way round.  Across the big bridge (free) and into Tromso.  Weather horrid … teaming rain.  Found a carpark by instinct next to the Tourist Information.  The lady inside was a treasure, really helpful on Tromso itself and the ferry crossings for a route through to the Loften Islands … one ferry would have been over £100 alone so we discounted the ferry route rather rapidly.  We will  trudge round by road.

Back to Tromso:  some lovely old wooden buildings, even Burger King inhabited one.  We then inhabited Burger King for nearly two hours, using their sluggish but free wifi.  Had a walk round and then moved Chardonnay to a cheaper carpark, having emptied the chemical toilet … locations of both supplied by helpful TIC lady.  Then walked back along the fjord to the Polar Museum, passing one of the Hurtigruten and other large cruise boats.  Trams seems to be a major start / stop exploring destination judging by the number of people dragging suitcases; as well as the cruise ships, day trip boats, there is also an airport.

Polar Museum had info on seal and polar bear hunting: they really do have a lot of stuffed animals around here.  Outside one shop a polar bear had a large sign asking passers by not to touch, but the discolouration of his nose was evidence of this being ignored.

The museum had some information on Amundsen and his arctic and flying trips, but a really good and interesting section on Nansen, who actually did not make it to the North Pole, but her got further than anyone else ever had.  He commissioned the boat ‘Fram’ to withstand being crushed by ice as he planned to float to the Pole.  Soon realising that Plan A would not work, he went into Plan B.  he set off with one man, 27 huskies, two kayaks and sleds and headed off over land / ice pack.  Slow going and many incidents where the two men fell into icy water, saved each other’s lives and rescued their kayaks, they had to abort Plan B.  Plan C was to stay alive during the winter.  So they built a stone cabin and stocked up on seal and whale meat and sat the winter out.  Amazingly, they remained close friends.  After the winter, they continued their trek and finally were picked up by a boat.  As they made it back to civilisation, they had a telegram that the Fram and her crew had also survived.  There is a Fram museum in Oslo – may have to put it on the ‘to do list’.

Drove out of Tromso and spent the night at a viewpoint with 3 other ‘travellers’.  Woken at 1.00 a.m. by noisy arrivals, and took a couple of pix of the rosy tinted mountains.  The light was just amazing.  It is so bright here at night, that we have to shut all the blinds or we would struggle to sleep.  As it is, we seem to be going to bed later as our body clocks are still expecting it to get dark.  we have really noticed how the light really changes the colours around us.

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The 1.00 am light on the mountains form our night time view point!  Pix taken through the window from bed … not altered … real colours!

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