Tuesday, 28 April 2015

A Trip So Far

Journey to date
After leaving Boscastle December 10th 2014 we have covered a little bit of ground in Dickie.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Hugo Wears Poo and Visits the Compostela

‘I’ve definitely washed all the fox poo off’.
It all started so well

Butter wouldn't melt - but a stick's in trouble
Mr Fluffy announced this so assertively that I actually believed him. On our morning walk along the river at A Rua in Spain, Hugo had taken it upon himself to have an extended roll in the aforementioned excrement. The river came in handy to give him a wash but, as we later drove off, Hugo jumped to my lap and my sniffs revealed remnants of poo on his neck and collar. Lovely! We now have a rather, shall we say, rustic aroma in Dickie (and on my jeans) and Mr Fluffy is in trouble.
Hugo meets his first goose
Hot poppy action
After a night of wine with our neighbours Tony and Claire/Clare we eased into the day with our eventful river walk and a fry up and we are now at Ponferrada. This brings back a lot of memories for Mr Fluffy as he walked the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage route 11 years ago and we are parked in the car park of the peregrinos’ albergue. He is now urging me to walk it with him as back up in Dickie. It’s a possibility but I would certainly not be doing the 1000km or so he did from St Jean Pieds de Port. ‘It’s only 220km from Ponferrada’ says the volunteer warden in the albergue. Hmmmmm, I may need a bit of training and a new pair of knees before I set out so I’ll give it a miss right now.

The Templar churches and castle give a very ancient feel to the place and the basilica certainly has a ghostly vibe. Everywhere are signs for the Compostela. Tomorrow we'll head to Astorga then on towards the Spanish/French border.
Graham urges Hugo to do the Compostela

He's still not sure despite the posh sign
Outside same church
Inside Santo Tomas de Los Ollas

Astorga Butcher's shop

Friday, 24 April 2015

Witch Country

After a stunning drive along the rather curvaceous roads of the Alto Douro, we arrived at the city of Lamego which is one of the oldest in Portugal and is famous for its sanctuario. We stayed at a lovely site to catch up on washing and wee fee and, on our walk to the town, we were offered a lift by a father and son who thought it was too terrible for us to be walking in the rain. Eventually we accepted their offer (wet dog and all) and they were kind enough to give us a potted history of the place when we arrived. I can't help thinking that the Portuguese are some of the nicest people we have met on all our travels.
Lamego Sanctuario
Our stay was brief as we were keen to get to the Tras-Os-Montes area which is supposed to be the witchiest place in Portugal. I have to say we were a little disappointed by the town of Montalegre which had more than a hint of the Cambourne about it (sorry Cambourne), especially when we were awoken at 6 am to the sounds of a market being erected around Dickie. After the initial panic we packed up and headed off to Vilar de Perdizes.
This Perdizes cottage has seen better days
I can imagine an ancient witch living here

The bridge between Spain and Portugal
What a difference! Perdizes has a witches market once a year, in September I think, and is a somewhat tumble down village surrounded by the most gorgeous countryside. On our walk we found a burial chamber and a gorge gorge which was a little bit like St Nectan's Glen in Cornwall. The river marked the border between Spain and Portugal.
burial chamber
close up

Olas de Santa Minha
We sadly left Portugal and are now in Spain, well Galicia actually. We are parked by a river and have met a lovely young British couple (hi Tony and Claire) who are full timing in their Burstner van, and allegedly (smiley face) have seen an otter in the wild only yesterday at this very site. We have not been so lucky but did meet a couple of Yorkshire terriers called Eros and Dior which was almost as good. We did try to find the otter but were unsuccessful even with Hugo helping. 

A small beverage tonight methinks (having finally recovered from the hangover).

Foz Coa

Neon museum depiction of rock carving
If you are ever tempted to drink beer followed by wine followed by white port followed by red port followed by yet more wine – DON’T DO IT. We met a really nice couple (hi Pauline and Dave) who seem to have more stamina than us as they looked fine the following morning and we were both near death. Luckily our guided tour of the Vale of Foz Coa was happening the following day so we could remain horizontal for most of our hangover.
What a looker

oooh matron - I think their trusses have slipped

I have no idea what this is
penis central

The Foz Coa Valley has a huge number of ancient rock carvings and we went along to the site at Canada do Inferno. It was fascinating to see the carvings in place as we’d seen the reconstructions at the museum. The guide spoke in French so I think I understood about 80 % of the information as his French was about as good as mine. 
neon depiction of a stag

Our guide to Canada Do Inferno

A couple of deer I think


Monsanto Cottage Door 
The houses of Monsanto seem to emerge from the rocks – it’s like stepping back into the middle ages. We stayed overnight at a village below and walked up to the ‘sacred mountain’ where we found an ancient stone city topped by a castle, a church and many rock carved graves. Doors peeped out of the rocks, pigs lolled around inside their stone pens, and chickens scratched in the dust. What a strange and magical place. 

View over the top

rock cut graves

Not a bad view (and I don't mean 'of me')

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Storms, Ghosts and a Wax Limb Oddysey

Oil Vats below kitchen at Convent of Christ
It’s official. Hugo hates storms! If there was a prize for the world’s most shaky dog Hugo would have won by a mile. We arrived in Tomar in central Portugal and had been on a long walk around town (where I purchased yet another Fado album, this time by Ana Moura  - fabulous by the way) and we hunkered down for the night when this almighty storm came out of nowhere. Massive lightning followed by huge cracks of thunder preceded the extreme shivering of one terrified dog. Luckily it didn’t last too long and the next day was fine enough for our explore around the Convent of Christ at the top of the hill. It’s a UNESCO world heritage site and quite stunning, from it’s gigantic oil vats in the kitchen to it’s OTT Charola painted with saints, demons and all you can imagine of a religious bent.
Convent of Christ Charola
That's what I call a Dining Room - Convent of Christ

Fatima stalls
anyone for a wax limb?
We’d had a couple of days spent checking out a medieval village called Marvao and a prehistory musem in Macao. Marvao, similar to Monsaraz, had amazing views but we didn’t stay due to a gigantic French van parking so close to us that we could barely open our doors. We were safe from overly proximatous Frenchmen in Macao as we were the only ones there and spent the day having a tour of the museum by a very enthusiastic archaeologist called George. It was he who suggested Tomar for the convent and the Foz Coa Valley for more prehistoric art.
Exterior View - Convent of Christ

We’re heading up there now after a flying visit to Fatima for some wax limbs and a few glow-in-the-dark virgins, and a night at Monsanto, one of our favourite places so far. We’re pretty sure Hugo is psychic as he was barking and growling madly at the door of an empty chapel in Monsanto – obviously had seen a ghost – or perhaps a rat – who knows.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

The Phallic Stones of Monsaraz

Belhoa menhir (not photo shopped)
Well I do believe that ancient Portuguese people were fond of a giant phallus. The many megalithic sites around Monsaraz have a strong fertility theme. I'll let the pictures do the talking. Lover's Rock is a place where young ladies stand with their back to the rock and throw stones with their left hand (on Easter Monday. The number of times it takes before a stone lands on the top is the number of years they wait till they marry. 
Enthusiastic throwing at Lover's Rock
See what I mean
Phallic stone of Outeiro

Graham in action

Friday, 10 April 2015

Drama in Monsaraz

‘Tranquilio, tranquilo’. It’s not often Graham needs to be calmed down by a Spaniard.

Dickie has just been violated.

Why do people travelling in convoy feel the need to park exactly next to each other? Feeling relaxed while looking out over the expanse of the Alentejo, Graham remarks ‘that van’s a bit close!’ as it tries to park between his friend and us. BANG!! I race to the door in a fit of panic and trip while trying to stop Hugo from dashing out, bashing my ear in the process. Mr Fluffy jumps out to a chuckling Spanish woman who finds it very amusing that her husband has reversed into Dickie, luckily just into our bike-rack. The Spanish chap feigns ignorance, presumably totally deaf to the noise it made when he hit us. There are numerous pieces of tape holding his van together at the back, supposedly where he has reversed into other unsuspecting vans.

Luckily all is well and we can remain tranquilo after all.

Evora Stones and the Chapel of Bones

We have been looking forward to the area around Evora for a while now. It’s a great place for megaaaaaalith (sat nav speak) watching and it didn’t disappoint. We found the major sites of Almendres (a large stone circle) and Zambujeiro (a poorly reconstructed burial chamber with 6 metre high walls) and another very impressive one, the Cromeleque de Vale Maria do Meio which was our favourite as we just happened upon it by mistake.
Vale Maria do Meio
Menhir of Almendres

Almendres stone

Almendres stone circle

Almendres was a magical place especially as we found a 5 euro note as we were leaving. Perhaps the elves (or Portuguese equivalent) may have been thanking us for the figs we left for them at the base of the stones. The find was spent on some rather tasty pastis de nata at the café de Sao Miguel in Evora, and I splashed some of my own cash on a new pair of sunnies thanks to the superior skills of the salesman in the glasses shop.
rock booty

Pillar in the Cappella dos Ossos
The city itself is a UNESCO World Heritage site but we couldn’t help feeling it has been rather badly hit by the recession. The streets were dirty and the sites were a little shabby but an interesting place all the same. The Chapel of Bones was particularly interesting if a little gruesome. Over 5,000 monks bones line the walls and normally there are a couple of mummified bodies hanging from the sides but they were off for restoration when we visited.

The Roman Temple sits next to a church and several dozen used condoms sat next to Dickie in the carpark. Thank god Hugo did not develop a taste for the rubbery remnants. He tends to eat anything he finds on the ground, especially if it once resided in the colon of a cat or fox.
Temple of Jupiter Evora

several dead monks

wall of bones
Yesterday we stumbled upon Escoural cave. It is closed unless you make an appointment and we were lucky enough to time it just as a group arrived. After donning some extremely attractive headgear we entered the cave to view some 5000 - 6000 year old cave art. We sat on the shaman’s seat where he would have sat to carve a set of horses in motion, and saw a skull protruding from the soil along with an urn, both of which were too fragile to remove. Our friendly guide blew us a kiss as we left – a little bit of icing on our daily cake. Finally, after much pfaffing about, we found the chapel of Sao Brissos which has been built around a group of dolmen.
dolmen used as walls to chapel
Dolmen Chapel at Sao Brissos
Pre Hard Hat at Escoural

Next, on to Monsaraz.