I spent the tail end of my trip abroad in the Geres National Forest of Northeast Portugal. It was pretty amazing. My host was Ricardo Pinheiro, a good friend I met at the IUGTA Conference in Austria last May. Ricardo was here with his wife, Paty, and their son, Leo, as well as his extended family and friends. This was their vacation, and they graciously let me crash four days of it. Nothing like the ugly American showing up just when you think you are safely ensconced in a fishing village high in the mountains of Portugal! We have our ways of finding you, and then eating your stuff.
I thought I would combine all of my thoughts into one LONG entry replete with photos. Let them tell you about this amazing experience.
These are grape vines at the Avioso Inn, where we stayed. The proprietors, Senior and Gloria Nevua, make their own wine!
This was my bed. I felt protected from the undead. My room was at the top of the Inn. You opened these little shutters over the window at night and the stars shown in. Yes, just like in Pinocchio!
The view from my bedroom. Every morning I was awakened by a rooster that shrieked "Cock-a-DOO-doo!" I can still hear him in my head. I hope I eat him.
The other view from the Inn. This is the Canicada Dam. We did much jet skiing, water skiing, and swimming. Also, there were dogs.
A delicious plate of cod at Dinner in Santa Maria do Bouro (Minho). Wow.
Some delicious pork interspersed with some not so delicious liver.
This is the Cathedral of Santa Maria do Bouro, and it's like a thousand years old. And it's also a hotel. It was beautiful, all lit up.
Interior of the cathedral slash hotel.
Outside the cathedral, with lime trees lit up.
Weird lighting effects and my crappy camera do little to affect the admirable attractiveness of the Pinheiro family.
Senior Nevua's wine casketry. This whole "wine" issue caused some awkward moments down the line for me. That story, however, is better in person.
The border of Portugal and Spain. I guess you can just come and go; and feel free to spray paint the name of your favorite soccer team!
Here is a group of us hiking in the early morning to some springs. The trails were dusty but the weather was fantastic and the wild flowers and grasses were so impressive.
This trail was actually created by Germans in World War II. A lot of work culminating in a big international spanking!
The springs - with incredibly clear water.
The second coldest water I've ever been in. Maybe third, counting the avuntos in Finland. The coldest water I've been in was a waterfall I swam in at Capitol Reef this past June. This was a season of cold water for me.
This is a natural hot spring in Fondevila, Spain. It was hot, but not that hot. I went in and swam around and put my head under the water. There were some Spanish swimmers there that acted like I was crazy. At one point this fat guy told me to basically get out. He was worried.
From the window of Ricardo's car.
Geres, Portugal. Windy roads, but how's that for a view?
Here I am, proudly waving my Portugese flag towel
Lunchtime at the Avioso!
Pedro and Ricardo on the jet ski. I drove that thing as well. I got it going about 90, and then I remembered all of my children and then slowed down.
Senor Nevua: Inn owner, Wine maker, Shepherd, Renaissance Man.
Everyone talked Portugese the whole time. Sometimes they would translate for me. I didn't mind - I would hate to constantly be translating for someone. They were really nice about it. Mostly I just watched their expressions and listened to their tones and I could sort of understand what they were talking about. But sometimes I thought they were fighting, and I asked Ricardo what they were fighting about. He laughed and said "We're not fighting. We're latin."
The Avioso Inn. Are you getting an idea of how awesome this place was?
Early the next morning we hiked into the mountains to locate, and turn, Senior Nevua's 50 plus cows. It's kind of a crap shoot, since you don't know where in the mountains the cows are going to be. You might find them in minutes, or it could take twelve hours. For us it took about four hours to find them, thanks to Senior Nevua making mysterious cow calls.
Wild horses...couldn't drag me away....
This is called a shepherd's oven. It's where the shepherd's crash - and the mountains are dotted with them. I actually snoozed in this one for about an hour.
Later, Senior Nevua and his brother-in-law, also named Senior Nevua, force-fed me veal that they were cooking over a fire. More veal than I have ever had in my life. More veal than any human being has ever eaten since, oh, Caligula or some other glutton. I was exhausted from eating veal. So I fell asleep right on the ground, nestled among cow pies. Ricardo's cousin Pedro took this picture.
Here they are! Cows.
We felt like conquering heroes, even though none of actually helped much. But hiking is a lot of work! And so is eating veal and telling scary stories about wolves. Pictured is Ricardo, Paty, and Pedro, in various states of excitement.
A final parting shot of Portugal. Such a beautiful country, and such warm and gracious people. I am so incredibly grateful to everyone who showed me such kindness during my four days there. I want to go back.