Local Heart, Global Soul

October 23, 2010

As It was Then, and as It is Now…

Filed under: PORTUGAL,SPAIN — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

Earlier in this blog, on the way back from another day trip in Spain we literally got onto the ferry like the last sardine being squished into the can.

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There was no space to exit the car, and certainly no view, so I was determined to come back again and try and get a glimpse of that the crossing was really like.

In days of old, crossing from one country to another within the European Union involved lengthy waits at border crossings, booths housed a multitude of officials and passports needed to be at the ready.

Mind you, in those days we also had a multitude of difference currencies in our wallets, and I remember my very first experience of Spain, so very very different to todays.

My first experience of Spain was when Himself and I were on our honeymoon in 1995. (I know, 15 years married already! yeah!!! ) We were staying in northern Portugal, in the Douro Valley and then went to Villa Real, and Braga… We were touring in the National Park and took the opportunity to pop over the border into Spain.

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

Unfortunately  we went during siesta time and almost everything was closed up. It was hot and we wanted to buy a drink, so eventually found one place that was open, but since we hopped over the border on a whim, we had no Spanish cash on us and our offering of Portuguese money was met with polite refusal. We left thirsty and were back in Portugal within 30 minutes.

My second time in Spain was when we were staying in the Algarve in the south of Portugal. We popped over the border for a Spanish lunch and to find a playground for the kids… we were in Spain for about 4 hours all up…

..the third time we were in southern France (cheap flights of Euro40 return A’dam to Pau  were too good to pass up) and took both the Pyrenees pass roads and the tunnels under the mountains into Spain for day trips. The restaurant on the Spanish side of the border at the top of the Pyrenees  gave us one of the worst eating experiences of our entire lives .. what was meant to be a nice tapas meal turned out to be an overly greasy, tasteless, low quality  rubbish, served with indifference at rip-off prices.

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

Fourth time was the Pyrenees  tunnel trip to Spain had us hunting high and low for anywhere to eat that wasn’t actually a hazy smoke filled bar, and believe me it got frustrating. We ended up at a snack bar where the offerings were marginally better than the restaurant at the top of the mountain (not exactly a compliment) and vowed to eat meals back in France from then on.

These days many things are easier, the Euro Zone common currency means no currency changing hassles, or bureau de change rip-off exchange rates and  the open borders mean no queues.

So this holiday, our regular day trips into Spain have been a vast improvement on my previous Spanish experiences. I’m slowly getting a better impression of the country and Himself and I are no longer able to make jokes about how short the visits have been. It’s true to say that I have now been really enjoying Spain rather than just surviving it.

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

We might even  manage to sleep a night next trip.. who knows?

We head back to Portugal and as you can see from the video’s of the ferry coming in, and our drive off at the other end, crossing borders these days within the EU couldn’t be easier.

We love it.

October 22, 2010

Camposancos is Literally our next Port of Call…

Filed under: SPAIN — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

We have been in Spain, on Monte de Santa Trega, looking at the Celtic prehistoric settlement (Castro).

The clouds are thickening and we head down the mountain to Camposancos  to  take the ferry back to Portugal.

Last time we took the ferry we got lucky by getting the last ticket for the next crossing that was going, and since the ferry was almost at the dock there was little time to take photos.

It’s less the Ferry building etc that I wanted to photograph this time, but rather all the delightful buildings that are around it.

First there is a statue at the base of Monte de Sante Trega that marks the turn off to the main road.

Then in  Camposancos very close to the ferry there are some wonderful buildings…

The character and tiles caught my eye the first trip….

There is a little building on the corner that oozes beauty in a rough and very uncomplicated way.. is it a little chapel ?

I’m not so sure because of the absence of windows, but who knows?

.. and further on, Look at this window,  it should be mandatory that all security grills should be this beautiful (in my not so humble opinion LOL).

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

Check out the large building in the background…

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

Yes.. this one….

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

October 21, 2010

Castro de Santa Tegra…Technology They Lacked, but Wimps They Were Not…

Filed under: SPAIN — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

The biggest and most delightful surprise  on Monte de Santa Tegra is not  the steep winding road that leads to the wonderful views at the top, but the sight of the Castro de Santa Tegra.

So what is a Castro? It’s the Spanish name for a Celtic prehistoric settlement that was uncovered here around 1900, was excavated and then partially rebuilt over the years.

Only a few of the dwellings have been rebuilt to the point of completion, most have their walls raised  just high enough to show off the style and character of the settlement and still give a more or less unimpeded view of the whole site.

Apparently the people who lived in these houses were from the Bronze Age and so predated the Romans but the area was also  inhabited during Roman times.

The stone houses are tightly packed together, there are very narrow paths in between some of the walls that would have been tiny alleyways when all the walls were  standing at their original heights.  Defense? Weatherproofing? Warmth in the winter months? Shade in the summer months? Maybe the tight fit of the houses was simply due to the steep topography of the peak on which the settlement is located?

Livestock, people, everything was packed in here.

For me (thinking typical Foodie thoughts) It’s hard to see today where food would have been grown,  because the hill is rocky and the best arable land is a steep climb down  and an even harder haul back up.

One thing is for certain, the people who lived in this settlement would have been fit!

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

The dwellings are circular, or at least roughly circular, some are almost oval and many have  the odd  kink and bend in them, in fact it reminds me of when you try and lay elastic bands on a table, invariably there are some that don’t quite lay flat are not completely circular as the sides of one circle push gently on the sides of another one.

At odd points in the settlement there are  “intersections” where the alleyways or footpaths cross… some of these are more open than others suggesting  small communal areas. Some of the houses appear to have a small attachments to them too, perhaps storerooms?, and there are few square “rooms” perhaps for livestock?

However it looked  all those centuries ago,  the fact remains that the structure, engineering, layout and construction of this entire site is a marvel, especially considering that it was all carried out in the absence of many of the tools that we take for granted today.

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

Even though what we see today is a partial reconstruction laid onto the foundations that have been excavated over the years, the sense of history is still very much here, and the reality of how life would have been lived pops into your imagination as you scan over the site.

When you start to walk around the site it quickly become apparent that it’s bigger than it first appears, so the social structure must also have been quite involved and highly organised.

We look inside one of the little dwellings that has been finished and roofed as it would have been originally,  the inside is “cosy” at best, window space is almost non existent and the doorway low.

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

Wooden posts fitted into these holes, which then acted las a hinge or support…

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

In the centre of the circle there would have been the fire so I assume that the house would have been filled with wood smoke on a regular basis too.

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

 

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

There is a museum somewhere up here too, where the many artifacts that have been excavated are exhibited, but it’s starting to get very busy here, the clouds are drifting in all around us, it’s getting misty and damp and the kids are itching for a swim back at camp, so we skip looking for it an head back down the hill to Camposancos and the ferry back to Portugal.

As we negotiate the tight bends in the road and steep gradient, even going  downhill, I have an ever growing respect for the people who lived so high up on this promontory and for whom  the slog up and down can not have been pleasant.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Technology they may have lacked, but wimps they were not.

 

October 20, 2010

Sometimes You Just Don’t Know Where to Look…(first)

Filed under: PORTUGAL,SPAIN — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

We are visiting Spain… more specifically, we are on the top of Monte de Santa Trega, a steep hilltop that lies at the back-side of the small town of  Camposancos, over the river from the north-western tip of  Portugal.

On the other side of the hill, facing the Atlantic Ocean is the bigger town of A Guarda.

The restaurant where we had lunch is almost at the top of the hill, but not quite, so after we have eaten, a short steep set of steps and a little path need to be negotiated in order to realise the full splendor of the view.

It’s clear that this little pinnacle catches the wind,  the restaurant was on the leeward side of the hill, facing Portugal slightly sheltered from the wind by the summit. Nestled by the road are stalls full of tourist trap souvenirs, most of it  looking less than attractive but we are enticed anyway and a few of the better looking magnets are purchased to further my collection.

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

For some inexplicable reason that I still haven’t managed to figure out, a lot of the items have a ” witch” theme…  which we bypass since  I have a passionate dislike since early childhood of most things sorcery or magical. Witches, ghosts, goblins, trolls, fairies, you name it in this realm, I can’t get enthusiastic no matter what.

No, no childhood drama or anything I can pin down,  just that books contain them have never ever appealed.

The idea of  reading  Harry Potter  is for me as appealing as writing out a dictionary, backwards, in Japanese.

So, (sigh) mean Mama that I am, when my kids discovered this  awful monstrosity of a souvineer,  it was easy to say no…

(the Spanish child next to us is clapping his hands because it’s noise activated)

We leave the Tat behind and enjoy the view…

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

looking back at the other “bump” on the ridge line of this hill…

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

A Guarda  and it’s harbour are a steep drop below on the Atlantic coast  to the left…

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

Kiwi Daughter has her new camera with her, she asks why one camera costs less than Euro 100,- and another costs Euro 250,- .. after all they both just take photos don’t they?

The easiest way to explain is to demonstrate… she has been taking  photos with her cheaper point-and-shoot… ( to be fair she did get a slightly better zoom than this, but it was very windy and gusting and it wasn’t until I put her photos onto the computer that I realised that the rest of her photos were not in focus) Note to self: need to teach Kiwi Daughter to steady herself when pressing the shutter…

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

And then, I show her some of the photos that I have been taking with my more expensive point-and-shoot (the Cannon was back at camp, and yes, I was kicking myself that I haven’t bought it along) Does she notice any different in the maximum zoom of each by any chance?  She looks into the viewfinder with a little gasp… I think I just heard the penny drop…

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

This shot is of the very top left corner of Portugal…(the bit on the other side of the river, that is)

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

Vila Nova de Cerviera  is centre top of the photo…

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

I hope to zoom in close enough to see the Stag on the hill behind it… but failed…

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

So.. the view is great…  I have to now confess all, the view is a nice by-product of the visit,  but it’s really not what we came here to see.  We drove by it on the way up, so now we have some hairpin bends to negotiate on the way down to see something that is far from mystic but very magical indeed….

October 19, 2010

Sitting in One Country and Looking over the Border at Another…

Filed under: PORTUGAL — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

We missed seeing A Guarda in Spain on our last trip over the border, so today we set off there for a proper visit. We have been up early and the pool at camp is captivating  the children so it’s almost lunchtime when we set out.

We take the bridge to Spain and then it’s simply a short trip along the river to A Guarda.

At the back of the town of A Guarda is a steep hill… it’s called  Monte de Santa Trega and it’s special for more reasons  than just the stunning views from the top.

We take the road up to the top of the hill, it’s like driving up the road equivalent of a spiral staircase and wow, it’s steep.

We arrive just in time for a Spanish Lunch.

Restaurant Pazo Santa Tecla sits right near the summit of the hill, there is a large dining area with great views over the river looking back at Portugal.

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

The menu choices are somewhat overwhelming,  there are pages and pages and pages of them, without even getting to the drinks selection there were more than 12 pages in total and our Spanish isn’t delicate enough to sort out all the variations of all the dishes on offer so we are back to guessing and asking the waiter for advice.

That’s the point when we discover that the waiter speaks about ten words of English so once again Himself is stretching his Spanish to the limit and we manage to order what we think are menu items we would like.

We start with bread and olives.. the bread is ok, the olives are divine.

My Main course is pork in gravy with some Padron peppers… and with a side salad of asparagus.

Himself goes for the set menu of the day which is a soup that  somewhat resembles that Portuguese Turnip leaf potato one that Kiwi Daughter tried back at the water park  restaurant. It was then  followed by shrimp and fish.

The kids share a dish that’s as close to ” fish and chips” as we could get.

… and we round it off with a simple pot of  ice-cream. As with other places we have been to in Spain on previous trips, ice-cream appears to be regularly served  simply and plain in the little commercial  single-serve plastic pot it comes in… no fancy scoops onto the plate,  no side decoration etc.

I have to admit that when it happens in a restaurant I’m surprised every time that they do nothing to ” dress up” the dessert… but it just seems to be the way they do it here.

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

Our summary of the meal is.. Ok.. could have been better,  but we have definitely eaten worse in Spain.

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

It’s clearly a tourist joint and no-ones local cosy eatery.  That usually makes the world of difference and in this case we were underwhelmed.  My meat was slightly on the tough side and the asparagus was cooked to within and inch of it’s life.. edible?  Yes… Raving? No.

Himself enjoyed his a little more but the kids had troubles too as their fish was brim-full of tiny bones and my meal got cold whilst I spent time picking them all out… probably that was our fault since our menu selection was haphazard at best and probably we missed the most kid friendly meals.

It filled a gap and like most tourists it’s never going to be our “local”  so our final grade was 6/10 … it was edible in the end, the waiter was friendly within the language constraints and the view was stunning.

The only problem with being so high up was that  wispy clouds kept passing by and made catching a good photo harder than I’d first imagined.

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

And just to make it clearer where we are.. remember this photo?

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

We are on top of the hill in the distance .. top right of the photo, the restaurant is on the left hand bump of the two at the top of the hill… and then here is the reverse view looking back towards Portugal…

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

It’s not many restaurants that can boast such a magnificent view not only of their own country but of a neighbouring one too… and speaking of view.. the best is yet to come.

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