Robert’s Wild Flowers of Northern Portugal
The countryside in Northern Portugal is mountainous and beautiful. We were there in spring so the country was green, although the vines had only just begun to develop leaves, but the wild flowers had started to appear. Lavender grows wild. (The only other place that I have seen this is Algeria). The major roads are very good with highways that have clearly been built using EU money wisely but the minor roads are a challenge. The farmers grow deciduous fruit trees and the sweetest of oranges, apart from the grapes which are extensive cultivated, both for many excellent red wines and of course for port. We did not sample any of the white wines, so we do not have an opinion about those. We went up and stayed at a hotel overlooking the Douro, near the Spanish border, in a town called Marinda do Douro in the north-east. To get there, the Garmin sent us through a corner of Spain and back again into Portugal. With no border posts now, it is easy to do. It was here that the roads became most interesting, as we were directed through a number of small old towns with narrow streets which could barely take the width of a car. In one such town, we became hopelessly lost as the road chosen by the Garmin was blocked off by construction vehicles. After driving past the same two old codgers three times sitting in the sun in the square, an old lady came out of her house to ask if we were lost. She could speak English (probably the only person in Northern Portugal) and she had two daughters in Johannesburg. She promptly jumped into the car almost on top of Angela and guided us out of town, then refused a lift home, walking a few kilometres and I am sure to the relief of her neighbours that seemed to be very worried that she was being kidnapped by these strange people. It just proves that the country folk in Portugal are very hospitable and friendly despite the fact that one can not understand them. We would go back to Portugal and stay in the country. Understanding the language becomes easier the more port you consume. Oporto is interesting and old with the deep-rooted port tradition with the established port cellars. Lisbon is also old with lots of history. We stayed outside Lisbon at the famous seaside resort town of Cascais, which incidentally is the most westerly part of Europe, even more west that Ireland – if you do not believe this, check the atlas!