The Enchanting Emerald Coast

The Enchanting Emerald Coast

Portugal’s Emerald Coast 19 – 26 May 2012

Despite recent strikes of Portuguese air traffic controllers and airport staff we arrived on time (fifteen in the party) in the very modern Oporto airport, to be met by Steve, our leader for the week.

We transferred to a lovely new coach to travel to Hotel Meira in Vila Praia de Ancora, which only took an hour, and after a quick freshening-up we met downstairs to find out what was in store for us in the week to come!

The Hotel Meira was a very well appointed hotel and even had a little fridge in the room, which was very handy for picnic ingredients! Some of the rooms had lovely terraces with sun loungers and a table and chairs. We had very good meals in the hotel and delicious buffet breakfasts which included freshly squeezed orange juice.

Unfortunately the first day of our holiday was heralded by rain and we all got rather damp going to the supermarket for our picnics. Undaunted we set out after donning our waterproofs to walk up through the town, passing some stone steps with the Seven Stations of the Cross going up to a little chapel.

We passed gardens full of grape vines, lemon and orange trees, cabbages and potatoes. Flowers, particularly roses, were in abundance, filling the air with their fragrance.

It wasn’t long before the rain stopped and we were able to divest ourselves of our waterproofs. We crossed a stream via a rickety plank and visited a picturesque spot by a river weir.

Near the village of Soulelo we had lunch using picnic tables outside the San Pedro chapel. Further along the route of our walk we saw a lovely old ‘clapper’ style stone bridge, its surface smoothed by centuries of footfall.

As we passed the Church of Capela de Pedrosa there was a long line of flower heads arranged to show words and shapes leading from the front door of the church. A beautiful sight.

After following a track into the dunes and then on a boardwalk we got our first view of the Atlantic Ocean with waves crashing on to the shore. We walked back into Praia de Ancora via the beach and the boardwalk sections.

We had a really good supper at a restaurant on the front called Portobello, where some of the group had Espetadadas which were very large skewers on a special holder containing prawns, peppers and squid and were absolutely delicious. A very good end to our first day!

On day two we left the hotels by taxi to Dem, for a walk through a series of villages along the slopes of the Serra D’Agra. We had our lunch at a wonderful spot by the Rio Ancora and after a short scramble back to the road we made our way to a small café in nearby Montaria Sao Lourenco for a coffee/beer stop.

After walking beside the river for some time we crossed an old Roman bridge, Ponte de Tourim and then followed the river to Orbacem, the head of the Ancora valley, for a taxi ride back to the hotel.

On Tuesday we all made our way to the local bus station to catch the bus to Carreco Rua de Farol, and the site of a manned lightbouse and small museum. We walked along the coast on dunes, the beach and boardwalks, passing forts and some rather strange fenced-off areas which we found out were sites of Ringed Plover nests.

We reached Praia de Ancora in time for lunch and some of the group stayed in Praia to go exploring and swimming whilst the remainder of the group made their way through pine forest to the edge of the estuary of the River Minho. They returned by bus. We had another excellent meal in the hotel enjoying the local Sea Bass.

On Wednesday we travelled by local bus again to Caminho to take the chain ferry across the river to Spain. We climbed up to the summit of Santa Teclar passing an old Celtic settlement and a cobbled path passing the Stations of the Cross. We had our lunch at the top in a shady place, and the summit café was ideal for a refreshing drink stop.

After returning to Caminho on the chain ferry we spent some time in the town with its pretty square and church and then return to Praia de Ancora by bus. We had a super evening meal in the town which included the usual delicious variety of fresh fish.

On our ‘rest day’ we all decided to catch the train from Praia de Ancora to Tui, a town in Spain, and then walk back across the river to Portugal. Tui was a very interesting town and had a large market on Thursday.

Because the route of the pilgrims from Santiago to Compestela passes this way and we were walking as a group we kept being mistaken for Pilgrims, with helpful locals trying to point out the correct direction to us!

We walked across the bridge back into Portugal and arrived in a largish town, Valenca, site of an old hill fort. This was full of touristy shops and cafes and we returned to the hotel later in the day by train.

Friday, our last day of walking, was a day in the mountains, and our longest distance covered during the week. We travelled out by taxis to Mosteiro do Sao and the walk was across varied terrain.

We passed through a valley with large rocks named Porto du Lobo (wolf rocks). We had our lunch at nice picnic site and passed through the villages of Arga de Cima, Arga de Baixo and Santa Aginha. We had a refreshment stop at a Taberna later in the afternoon, and the taxis transported us back from Arga de Sao Joao. We had a wonderful final meal in a local hotel.

The week was blessed with good weather and we all enjoyed the sleepy villages Steve took us too. Our holiday culminated in one of our party being asked if she would mind taking parting in the training of a sniffer dog at Gatwick – one for the photo album, I’m sure!