Some of the best village ramparts in France
We are in Braganca. Really pleased to be here as this city has been on my wish list for many years (far longer than we have had Bertie) but also sad as it means we will soon be leaving Portugal! I can see the attraction of the the Algarve but it is too developed and too busy for me. We have driven the length of the eastern border of Portugal, rarely more than 20 miles from Spain and sometimes just a few hundred metres. We have stayed at a dozen aires and several times we have been all on our own and most times we have been happy to share with no more than a handful of other motorhomes. The roads are empty even if they are sometimes less than smooth – in fact they can be really rough!
Anyway we left Torre de Moncorvo after a good night’s sleep having been all on our own all night. A nice municipal aire with free services where everything worked so we filled up with water before we left. I had plotted a cross country route today since I love bumbling on these empty coutry roads with jaw dropping views and interesting little towns. The idea was to go to Braganca today but realistically I knew that 130kms on these roads might be too much. The day was bright to start with but we could see thick cloud to the north and knew that the sunshine might not last (it didn’t).
Much of that day’s journey followed the valley of the Rio Sabor – I say followed the valley but in reality that meant dropping steeply down in to the valley and then climbing the thousand feet back up the otherside! We did that twice. Torre de Moncorvo itself was quite high and the first leg of the journey was a long descent to the river and then an amazing switch back route up the otherside. We stopped near the top and looked back and we could see below us many of the curves and twists of the road we had just driven up.
We stopped for coffee on top of a hill amongst olives and almonds and there was an information board talking, in Portuguese , all about the Route of the Almonds that we seemed to be following. There was certainly a lot of almond blossom around. What really surprised me was to find that we had parked amongst wild lavender – I do not think I have ever seen lavender growing wild before.
Our lunch stop was planned for Izeda, a small town about 30 miles south of Braganca. By the time we got there it was mid afternoon and we still had to get lunch. It was quite gloomy and there was no sun at all. The forecast was for rain overnight followed by a mainly sunny day. We decided that if the remaining 30miles was as dramatic as the 50 miles we had just driven then we would rather see it in sunshine tomorrow than the gloom of late afternoon today.
We had a little walk around Izeda – a rather depressing little town which seemed half empty. A number of houses were derelict – these were terraced properties sandwiched between inhabited, well maintained properties! Only older folk were to be seen. We think we might be seeing the effect of rural depopulation where the young people have moved away, either to the big cities or even abroad to work. There are a lot of Portuguese in the UK for example – you do not always notice them as such as unless you are very familiar with the language as it sounds much more like Polish or Latvian or even Russian than you would expect. This was another town devoid of tarmac – all the streets were cobbled which is noisy and slow in Bertie.
Once again we had a free aire all to ourselves – and the services worked and we filled up again with lovely free water. The sun did indeed shine today and we were so glad that we had saved some of this journey for a sunny day. The trouble with that is that you just have to keep stopping to look at the gorgeous views!
We left Izeda at 10:10 and arrived at the Intermarche in Braganca at 12:30. With a 50 minute coffee stop in that time it meant that we spent 90 minutes driving 30 miles – an average speed of 20mph! That is real bumbling. The previous day was a similar rate of progress. I am not complaining as I love driving like that across country like that – it would have been a real shame to have rushed through all that scenery.
In Braganca we went straight to Intermarche as we needed some shopping but also we had not done any laundry for over a week (that was at Intermarche in Moura on Saturday before last). We have found the open air automated laundrettes in supermarket car parks really useful – you put your washing on and leave it to do its thing whilst you do your shopping and then as you come out you switch it to the dryer and go and have a coffee in Bertie! Then all you need to do is put it away. A 10kg wash is usually about €4 and it cost €2 for 20 mins in the dryer and that includes the detergent.
We are now at the aire under the walls of Braganca castle. Sadly the water at the services is turned off but we will still be able to stay for two or three nights. I really want to explore this historic city properly.