As I start writing, I should be on a plane heading to Portugal. Instead, like the rest of the UK, I’m firmly at home abiding by the lockdown restrictions. Looking for the positives, the sun is out and it’s 14°c. Porto however, is 13°c and raining.
Just like the cancelled holidays last year, it is a disappointment. Real disappointment. An integral part of going on holiday is the excitement ahead. The anticipation. The packing and planning. Checking for the passports and tickets. Driving to the airport. Checking for the passports and tickets again.
The feeling when you park the car at the airport and get on the transfer bus to the terminal is amazing. For me, that’s the start of the holiday. Bags checked in. Tickets at the ready. Passports checked. Through airport security. Belt off and pockets emptied. Step through the scanner. Hold breath and hope the scanner doesn’t’ beep. Trousers pulled up from around the ankles and belt back on. All done.
Airports play the ‘Ikea’ game and give you one route to get to the departure lounge. Wandering past all the shops, always makes me wonder what I’ve forgotten to pack. Grab a few snacks and a drink. And wait. I’m always early, so end up waiting for ages. It’s a fear of being late. I guess it’s also a way I manage anxiety. I just need to be organised. I know people take the mickey; daughters included.
With Porto scheduled to be my arrival point, I was planning to have the first day in the city. Travel guides suggest the metro is the easiest and most economical way to travel to the centre of Porto. Jump on the violet line and 30 minutes later, I’d be in central Porto. On the list for Porto was a good walk around the city largely to take in the buildings and bridges.
Top of the list was to walk across the Dom Luís I Bridge. A double-decker bridge crossing the River Douro. Looks amazing. And rumour has it the views are damn good too.
I also plan to visit the Livraria Lello bookstore. One of the most beautiful bookstores in the world, hidden behind an art nouveau façade.
Overall, a leisurely end to the day following the flight to Portugal.
The purpose of this trip though was research. To bring to life the many towns I’ve looked at online. To get a feel for them. To get my bearings more than just on Google maps. This was to be the first of a few research visits over the next year.
All my research has been focused on Central Portugal. Using the Serra da Estrela as a point of reference, I’ve looked at the areas wrapping around the Natural Park to ensure I’m close to them for lots of hiking and outdoor activity.
There are advantages to living either east or west of the mountain. Reading blogs, watching vlogs and joining groups on various social media platforms, there are many different views. Personal preference is clearly the biggest factor.
My plans for this trip were to start due north of the park and head in a clockwise direction. Starting in the Beira Alta province, and travelling down to Beira Baixa and the Castelo Branco District.
Sketching a roadmap based on towns to visit, areas of interest and topography of the provinces, I had a target list. The summaries below are collated from the research I’ve undertaken. I can’t wait to visit.
Guarda – The highest city in Portugal. It is a medieval city with lots of history, including the Cathedral of Guarda, the Castle of Guarda and the old down medieval walls.
Belmonte – Recognised as one of the most beautiful Portuguese villages, this is a very picturesque historical town. It is less commercialised than many other local towns, yet with all the local amenities.
Covilha – A mountain town located close to the Serra da Estrela. Famous for wool and cheese. The town also has a panoramic elevator to help visitors explore the town and its terrain.
Fundao – A rural city which is an important centre for commerce and industry. It is Portugal’s capital for cherry production and historically has been the centre for gold and silver.
Penamacor – A quaint, authentic Portuguese village located in the rolling hills and valley of east Portugal.
Castelo Branco – ‘White Castle’ is a city in central Portugal and the largest commercial centre in the province. The castle is located at the top of a hill and overlooks the whole city.
Proença-a-Nova – This is a much smaller, and often overlooked city in Portugal. As such, it’s not on many people’s destination list although it is a beautiful city.
Serta – The final destination on this road trip is Serta, a busy market town to the south-west of the Serra da Estrela.
So, that’s the outline of my trip, albeit virtual. While the current lockdown restrictions are being eased, it continues to be a patient wait for news about overseas travel. But I must admit, there is a little impatience setting in.
I guess this gives me more time to plan the trip. And I welcome suggestions if there are other places to visit on my clockwise road trip around the Serra da Estrela.
Almost forgot. The legal matters of the house sale progressed. Contracts exchanged. Completion finalised. Technically, I could now buy a one-way ticket.
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