Being able to see a country through the eyes of its people is one of the best ways to see and understand a country, its culture and language, and its history, I think. Luckily for me, I got the chance to do just that when I visited Portugal. One of my dearest friends in the world is Portuguese and she made time in her busy life to show me around Portugal and hang out with her mosquito-attracting Canadian friend. Getting the chance to hang out with her was one of the motivating factors as to why I chose Portugal as my destination of choice to have my first solo adventure abroad. Luckily for the both of us, there were no mosquitoes to eat us alive this time.
The first stop on our weekend road trip was Viana do Costelo. Located north of Porto, the town of Viana is a coastal city, one that is still very in tune with its cultural past and seafaring history. Viana is probably best known for its filigree jewellery known as “Viana’s Heart” or the “Heart of Viana”. This intricate piece of jewellery dates back centuries and it the cultural symbol of the city. The town also happens to be my friend’s hometown and being able to see and explore this amazing city and the surrounding area through her eyes and learning about its history from her was an absolutely incredible experience. Fortuitously, we arrived in town just in time for the city’s annual August celebratory fireworks that lit up the night sky and it was a sight to behold. If you ever visit Viana, I definitely recommend trying the town’s most delectable pastry, the Bola de Berlim. This puffed donut-like pastry filled with mouth-watering custard cream is definitely worth the wait in line in the town’s centre bakery, which has been making these delectable desserts for generations. You cannot go wrong with a warm and sugar-dusted pastry, you just can’t.
I loved Viana and its surrounding area. It was a great place to spend the weekend exploring and just relaxing and hanging out with a great friend. Sunday saw us hit the road as we headed back to Lisbon, but not before making a few stops along the way.
The town of Aveiro, popularly known as the “Venice of Portugal” for its picturesque canals and humpback bridges connected to the city’s main river. I saw a number of moliceiros (gondola-like boats) traversing down the canals taking tourists on tours of the city while exploring. While we didn’t stay long in Averio to take a moliceiros ride, we did find time to stop into a bakery to pick up some of the city’s best-known desserts which all centre around the egg or ovos. The Ovos Moles de Aveiro are delicate soft egg yolk desserts that have an egg yolk and sugar filling, wrapped in a rice paper casing similar to communion wafers that are usually nautical or seafood shape.
(If you can’t tell already food and desserts played a central theme to this road trip.)
We stopped in Costa Nova, which is a very popular beach town before leaving the area near Averio. The town is known of its stripped houses that line the boardwalk and is definitely a fun place to stop in if you want to head to beach or explore the cool sites in the town. The beach is very popular with tourists and locals, even at the end of August which is at the cusp of the end of the high tourist season in Portugal.
Our final stop of the trip before making it back to Lisbon was the walled medieval city of Óbidos. One thing that I learnt while on this trip was that the history of Portugal is very eclectic and contains Roman, Celtic, and Moorish roots that you can see throughout Portugal, especially in its many well-preserved historical sites. The city of Óbidos is evidence of this layered history, especially its castle that you can still explore parts of to this day which contain Celtic, Roman, and Moorish features. One of the fun things about this walled city is that you can actually explore and see the city while walking atop the stone walls that it is surrounded by. While I chose not to do this, I’ve heard it takes about an hour or so to complete a full circuit of the wall. My friend and I actually ended up having dinner in Óbidos, and like many of the experiences that I had on this trip, it was definitely a once in a lifetime experience.
(All pictures featured in the post were shot by me with my iPhone 6s.)
Thanks for reading!