Portugal’s Emerald Coast – 14th-21st May 2011
We wanted a walking holiday, but with time for relaxing as well, and this holiday gave us both. After a very early start, a 6.15am flight from Gatwick, we arrived at the very comfortable 4 star, family run, Hotel Meira at Praia de Ancora by 10.15 in the morning. This gave us the opportunity of an afternoon walk along the coast for five miles and taxis back. However, before we had time to unpack we heard loud drumbeats out in the street. Hurrying out we were rewarded with the sight of the firemen in red tops and black berets, beating large and small drums, marching along to the town hall led by some ladies in their colourful national costumes.
The following days we had a mixture of hill walks through traditional farming villages, a high, rocky plateau, another coastal walk and a trip into Spain by ferry across the estuary with a walk up Tegra hill to Tesla Monastery. Mark, our leader, was very good on local knowledge and considerate of our different needs – two of the walks having the opportunity to do a shorter version or a lower level walk through villages, rather than steeper hills. This suited our party of twelve and we split evenly into parties of six on those two days.
The Spanish trip did not quite work out as planned, but in the event, it proved a successful and enjoyable day. We caught the bus to Caminha in the morning to get the ferry at about 10.30. However the water was too low to go, so the ferryman said to come back at 12.00 when it would go – probably! Meanwhile we visited the local market, had a coffee and watched some small children in national costumes dancing in their clogs.
The ferry did go at 12.00, but only just, as the water was still quite low the boat had to blast the sand away, which took a very long time. Once in Spain we had a lovely walk to the top of the hill, with a picnic stop in the woods on the way and a café stop at the top. On the way down we visited partly restored Celtic village of stone round houses. A thunder storm arrived just as we got back to our hotel and that was our only bad weather.
After our walks we always had time to relax, visit the local cafes, or swim in the hotel pool. However one of our party, Rog, was a bit more hardy. On the Monday we had taxis out to walk through various villages. On the way Mark took us to see a waterfall and pool, which was icy cold. Without hesitation Rog stripped off his shirt and boots and waded in for a swim. By the time we walked on to our café stop and taxi pick-up point the heat had dried his trousers!
On Friday we caught the bus to Viana to walk the ten miles back along the coast. Memories of that day, hot sun, cool breeze, crashing waves on the rocks, long white sandy beaches and again Rog going for a dip accompanied by Linda his wife and they’d come prepared with their swimsuits this time! It was much too cold and rough for the rest of us who preferred to watch them whilst we picnicked.
Saturday was a bonus as we had an evening flight home, so some of us caught the train to Viana to spend the day there. One of the highlights was men and women in national costume singing and dancing in the main square. Also we enjoyed a visit to the museum of national costume which gives a history of the national dress.
To sum up, we would recommend this holiday in particular and Northern Portugal generally, for all sorts of reasons – uncrowded roads, attractive scenery, good walking, patient, polite people, historical sites, etc. ….