Our first port of call in Portugal was Viana do Castelo, a lovely small city on a river overlooked by an impressive basilica and brimming with history and interesting architecture. We arrived late in the evening having had dolphins and a lovely sail down the coast, I even got the dolphins on video for once:
On our first trip to town the next day we happened upon a great restaurant for lunch and got a taste of the warm, welcoming nature of the Portuguese people- one guy even offered us the use of his car to collect new batteries for the boat!
The town had plenty to offer, we couldn't resist a trip around an old hospital ship that used to sail with the Portuguese fishing fleet each year to the Grand Banks. The fishermen used to go out alone in tiny dories fishing each day and return to a 'mothership' each night- the dories make Alcyone look like a cruise liner in comparison! Tough folks.
It was really cool to see all the old technical drawing preserved on the vessel, she was built locally and funded by a consortium of fishing businesses, so is much treasured by the town. It seems her services were much appreciated by the fleet too with an operating theatre on the lower decks and a full complement of nurses and doctors. If that wasn't enough the ship also had a barber and a wine store.
A trip to Viana wouldn't be complete without a trip up to the basilica. We used the excuse of John's still sore ankle to catch the funicular up- it wasn't as good a Bergen's, but still the view from the top was impressive. We chose a pretty bad day to visit; it seemed to be hosting at least two weddings and a vintage car rally, so we went for a walk in search of some peace and quiet. We certainly found it at the iron age settlement- where we were the only people there. It turned out the hill had been the base for an early agrarian society. When the Romans turned up they simply adjusted the settlement to suit them. It was incredible the foundations of the houses were still so intact!
After our iron age adventure we went back to church and had a trip to the very top of the dome, which involved the smallest spiral stair case I have ever used. I was worried I might fall except there was nowhere to go.., you would just wedge in the bend. It was so tight there was a traffic light system to get you up and down. It was interesting to see the construction of the dome as we climbed up through the stone work, and the view from the top was certainly worth the stairs.
On our final day in the town we mostly just wandered the small streets and squares, and sat by the river watching the world go by. I have become a bit obsessed with the Portuguese tile decorations so please excuse all the photos. I'm just planning the redecorating for when we get home.
Next stop was Porto for some Port wine tasting, and more tiles.