Portugal hopping with Friends

14 Jul
The 3 musketeers attacking the portuguese mountains

The 3 musketeers attacking the portuguese mountains

One would think that you’d learn from experience but it doesn’t seem to work for me. After having raced around 3-4 cities in Thailand in only 5-6 days I solemnly promised myself never to rush anymore on holidays. The proof was 3 weeks in the tent of the garage of my niece’s house on the green edge of a little village in the middle of the Portuguese countryside, where there was little else to do than to ‘be’ (read here) and to venture out on the dangerous paths of babysitting.

But then it all went wrong when 2 friends arrived from Brussels, visiting me and Portugal – virtually the whole of it – in less than a week! The Portuguese setting was relaxed and laid-back, but the speed was super-sonic: discovering down-to-earth Tabua, architectural Viseu, quaint Santa-Comba Dao, slate village Piodao, university town of Coimbra, tasting wine in Anadia (make your own Champaign) and back to civilization in Oporto (separate post here).

Charming B&B Retiro no Rio

Charming B&B Retiro no Rio

Our base for the first 2 days was definitely relaxing. We stayed at a quinta on the banks of the Mondego river, in a Bed and Breakfast called Retiro No Rio. It was a lovely old stone building at the river side, surrounded by fields with olive trees (subsidized by my EU tax money) and tents + caravans (the Dutch owners had ‘of course’ turned their property into a camping site, as many here did). The turquoise swimming pool and the superb weather made us slow down in the mornings (lounging at the pool), lovely slow time which we had to catch up in the afternoon.

The lads relaxing at the Pool

The lads relaxing at the Pool

The owners probably hadn’t had many young (ahum) people staying there (mostly families with noisy kids – mostly Dutch which are mostly noisy ;-) so when we were all dressed up (or should I say dressed down) at the pool, the manager came out to shoot some pics for their website (www.retironorio.tk) – probably to attract some new/different clientele (hehe).

Breakfast was also a funny affair. Partly because of the clash of languages (Dutch with Dutch accent, French with Belgian accent, Dutch with French accent, Dutch with Flemish accent, etc). There was also the clash of cultures: middle aged married chatty Dutch hosts seeking refuge in the slow Portuguese countryside and three exuberant gay city boys looking for fun. An early morning Kiwi discussion made the differences clear. There were kiwi plants with lots of fruit at Retiro no Rio – and one of my friends had some kiwi plants on his penthouse terrace, but no fruits in sight. When asking, it turns out that you need a male and female plant, and guess, my friend (gay) of course only has the male variety… (haha)

Roaming around the countryside

The only picture we have of Oliveira do Hospital

The only picture we have of Oliveira do Hospital

There’s not all too much to do in Portugal interior besides visiting the villages, finding little restaurants to eat a cheap menu do dia (5 euro for starter, main, bread, wine, coffee – add a euro for dessert – incredible), visiting the churches and cathedrals here and there, or the cathedrals of consumerism (the oversized American style malls).

Pictures below of:

  • Retiro no Rio: our retreat at the river, lovely pool with gorgeous people (us – hehe), great views of the river
  • Caregal do Sal: a small town, with a few nice houses, a bank and post office and an escape to the national road (thus civilization)
  • Santa Comba Dao: quaint river town, where Portugal’s dictator Salazar was born and the only train station in the area
  • Viseu: I went there many times, but never found the magnificent cathedral. We had only been to the mall
  • Oliveira do Hospital: I don’t have a clue why I took my friends there because there’s nothing much to see – but we found a lovely restaurant: O Tunel
  • Coimbra: a bustling university town (without students for the moment because of the holidays)



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