11 Minutes

Day 6 | Vila Praia do Ancora to Ponte de Lima

Sadly dinner last night was not as good as we’d hoped.  Gerry had imagined a fabulous fish supper over looking the sea but of course it was Sunday night and our choices were very limited.  In the end we settled on a small restaurant a few streets back from the coast (actually it was all we could find).  Gerry chose Bachalau… the celebrated Portuguese salted cod.  My choices were limited to a pork chop.  We ordered a glass of wine and a side salad, which was lucky as they were the most enjoyable parts of the meal.  Poor Gerry missed his seafood dinner yet again. 

We returned to our hotel, the Meira.  It’s just a hop, skip and a jump from the seafront and the camino.  It was wonderful and we’d thoroughly recommend a night here.  Our room overlooked the pool, but it was quiet and comfortable… Great shower too! 

Our train this morning didn’t leave until 10 o’clock so we didn’t need an alarm.  We meandered down to breakfast and enjoyed a feast of bacon and scrambled eggs, fresh melon and gluten free toast and lashings of hot tea! Gerry also enjoyed a croissant… although he had it first before he saw the bacon… and he also had sausages and tomatoes… and seconds too.  It would be fair to say we had a very good breakfast.

We took the train back to Viana.  It took us just 11 minutes.  From there we caught a bus to Ponte de Lima.  There was a little confusion as we looked for the bus station.  You have to walk through a shopping centre to find it and we wasted valuable minutes searching but thankfully we still made the bus.

The driver ignored us for 2 minutes, we thought he would leave without us but at the last moment he relented and let us board.  There then followed a 50 minute white knuckle ride of just us and the driver and a few of his friends.  First a lady got on… the driver carried on driving whilst collecting her fare (Honestly!!).  She stayed beside him chatting until finally taking the seat behind the driver.  They chatted for a while, only stopping to allow the driver to answer his phone… which he did often (Really!!)  We were happy to finally arrive although he was playing music and his playlist was right up my street… particularly love this song.

Ponte de Lima is one of the oldest towns in Portugal, founded in 1125 but with a history much older.   It is named after the long medieval bridge that passes over the River Lima.  It was a significant Roman settlement on the road from Braga to Santiago and was the first town in Portugal to receive a municipal charter.

Originally a Minho village whose human occupation dates back to prehistory, there are also traces of settlements over 3000 years old and even more from the Iron Age. With the arrival of the Romans Ponte de Lima gained new importance although the river became subject of folklore and legend.  It was said that all those who crossed the river would lose their memory.  The legend grew from a story of a band of soldiers who witnessed some kind of dispute where the leader was killed but none of them could recall the incident… Gerry thought that perhaps there was actually some kind of mutiny and the chaps all agreed to forget it and just get on with their lives   However, the Romans believed the river was magical and one Roman legion, upon reaching the Lima River, refused to cross its banks.  The commander swam to the opposite side and then called across to each legionnaire by name, proving that he didn’t lose his memory and that the stories were just nonsense.  After this revelation the Romans built a stone bridge over the river, thus securing the prominence of the town.

We also read that every second Monday, one of the largest country markets in Portugal is held here… sadly today was the first Monday so we missed it.

We walked by our accommodation and asked if we could leave our packs… the owner told us we could and also we could come back in an hour to check in. 

We proceeded to wander through the old streets of Ponte de Lima, climbed the steps to the city walls and wandered down to pose with the Roman legion and admire the bridge.   The last time I was here I arrived in the dark and the rain so it was a joy to wander in the sunshine.  We stopped for a drink, Gerry ordered a vino tinto and I asked for water; two wines arrived.  Gerry said he blamed Jesus as it wasn’t the first time water turned to wine… I blamed his awful Portuguese.

We checked in to our accommodation, another fabulous choice!  Casa da Travessa is glorious!  We have a twin room but there is a third bed for travelling groups.  The owner said she would do our laundry and showed us the kitchen… which we were free to use!  Happy days… there would be hot tea today!

We went off to explore some more.  I’d read there was a Vinho Verde Bodega here; this is the home of my favourite tipple.  We headed off.  Sadly though the visiting rules had changed due to covid.  Only by appointment and only with groups of four or more.  I was gutted but instead we went in search of a supermarket.  I was going to cook tonight, our camino special… tuna and sweetcorn risotto.  Its one of Gerry’s student recipes and has become a favourite when time and space is limited. 

For 18 euros we bought supplies for dinner, breakfast and a picnic lunch… and a bottle of the local plonk also seemed to land in the basket.

After dinner we settled down to watch an episode of Poirot… the butler didn’t do it in this episode!  Tomorrow we’ll cross the bridge and follow the arrows onwards on the central route.  The weather forecast isn’t great but not terrible either.  Hopefully it will be better than my last walk here where the trail was lost under the broken banks of the flooding river.

Onwards to Santiago we go!

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