The Duoro and Tomar

Yes it’s been some time since I left Portugal but I have been meaning to write up the rest of my notes so here is the next instalment of what I got up to, first of all a quick apology. It seems that the bit of code I use to e-mail people the blog does not know how to cope with certain things and I didn’t know this until I sent the last post. Therefore posts with pictures in will just have one or two photos and swapped out later for an interactive slideshow that you can come and use on the web. Apologies to all those who could not fully read the last post but remember you can always get to full text by visiting the site. With that done… onwards

After returning to Porto for a night my plan was to head east along the main river the Duoro that leads out towards Spain. You have a few options when you want to do this, the first being a cruise all the way up on a boat that starts early in the morning and takes 10 or so hours. This to me seemed a bit too much like being carted from one place to another and so I decided to take the train. Now its very viable that you can drive along this route and it takes in some beautiful scenery but for me the train was the best option by far. You catch the train out of Campanha station and you can buy a return ticket but again for me I wanted to spend at least one night out there and you sit on it for about two and a half hours gazing out the window at some very beautiful scenery.

Pinhao station

My end point for this journey was a place called Pinhão (pronounced pin-yao) mostly because I could find a place to stay quite close to the station. When browsing for a place I got a few hits and I want you to take this advise very literally. There is a hotel (maybe more than one) in the tiny town of Pinhão, spend a bit longer and I can highly recommend a place called Casa Cimera. I booked a place there, was greated with a glass of Port, made to feel right at home, given a very large room with a nice view, access to the pool, dinner, all the wine that I could drink and a very hearty delicious breakfast all for the very fair price of €80. I know that there are hotels in certain cities that will charge you that just to sleep there without all the extras. The Pinhão area is deep in the heart of wine country. A fair amount of the land is owned by the various Port producers back in Porto. With a direct similarity to Tequilla or Champagne that requires a product to be made in a certain place or a certain way Port is the same. Port can only be called Port if the grapes come from this area. There is not much to really see in Pinhão, you can take a tourist train or boat from here up and down the line but the area has plenty of peaceful walking to be had as you are surrounded by wine groves so if your looking to get away and be pampered for a bit it’s great.

Casa Cimera

I returned to Porto briefly after one night in the hills boarding a train direct to a place called Coimbra (pronounced queen-bra) is a slightly interesting city mostly populated by students. However it certainly does not suffer from the pretentious feeling that I find in Oxford, no it has a lot of graffiti and probably political unrest. It’s either that or the students are naturally rebellious if indeed the students are making the graffiti. Coimbra does have a very interesting museum that by pure coincidence I got into for free for going there on the first Sunday of the month. Even not free the Museum I think costs €6 and if your into history I can highly recommend it. The museum itself is built on top of some roman ruins but these are not just a few rocks, of no this is an entire underground complex and is rather impressive. The rest of the museum (and there is a lot of it) shows ceramics, metals, art, sculpture, furniture and all sorts if I had paid to see it I would of been very happy with the price.

Underground Roman Ruins

Yes this is a happy accident to come here only mildly spoiled by the place that I stayed which was soulless but functional. From there I jumped on a Rede Expresso (Portugal’ answer to National Express) coach for two hour to the historical city of Tomar.

The first main attraction (and the one I got to see) is the Convent of Christ a beautiful castle that looms over the city of Tomar. I’ll let you make up your own minds about the Knights Templar, I would not go so far as to say I am a fan but I have an interest in what they did, how they did it and why they did it. You can feel and see the influence of the Templar all the way through the city and with the castle on the top of the hill looming over city there really is no escape. The castle itself is beautiful and really delicately decorated and all around the castle you can always see the equal arm cross. The tour does not cost the earth either, I think I paid €6 for an unguided tour and for a few more Euro’s you can also get a ticket into to the Monastery in Batalha as well and it gives you 7 days to do so. The castle itself will take you at least an 1.5 hours to wander around, mores if you want to discover more about the castle or walk more around the grounds more.

Covento De Christo

The other main attraction is a festival that happens every four years called Festa dos Tabuleiros (the next one in 2015) but I wish you luck in finding a place to stay. If you take a look at the official website it will give you a bit of an idea of what happens. It looks like a fantastic thing to go and experience and I would dearly love to see it first hand so maybe if I can find a tent and a stray farmers field I’ll head back out to Tomar next year.

Next on the list was Lisbon which I got to again using Rede Expresso taking 2h 45m. I had no idea what to expect from Lisbon and you will have to wait until I finish the next entry to find out what happened.

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