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The Garrano Horse at Gerês National Park, Portugal

Garrano horses at Peneda-Gerês National Park, Portugal

The Garrano Horse at Gerês National Park, Portugal

Wild horses in Portugal at Gerês National Park.

Why are the Garrano horses so important?

In a territory with such ancient boundaries, such as Portugal, and where the human presence is almost everywhere, there are not so frequent wildlife sightings.

When these sightings happen, as it was in this case, it is always an exciting moment.

Garrano is a breed of Iberian horses.

We often tend to refer to Garrano horses as being Portuguese but the fact is the animal knows no boundaries and they can be seen both on the Portuguese side and on the Spanish side.

On the Spanish side, the Gerês (Gerês National Park) is called Xures, very similar.

These are horses of small stature, wrongly often referred to as ponies, adapted to the harsh conditions of the Gerês and with working horse characteristics.

It’s difficult to find the word to express how much I love seeing these free animals in the wild.

They are no longer in danger of extinction as once they were, it is a sign of hope in the future of coexistence between humans and wildlife.

This was a moment to remember.

David Monteiro

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How to visit Lisbon in one day?

Are you planning to visit Lisbon in one day?

I will leave here my suggestions on how to divide the time during a one-day visit to Lisbon and the best way to structure my suggestions is to divide the visit in morning, afternoon and after dinner.

You know the answer: that is impossible. However, what to do when a day is all the time we have to get to know Lisbon? Of course, we will have to make the most of the available time.

I will leave here my suggestions on how to divide the time during a one-day visit to the city and the best way to structure my suggestions is to divide the visit in morning, afternoon and after dinner.

JOIN ME FOR A TOUR

In this post, I will not include meals or lodgings because I will write about hotels and restaurants later.

Morning

– One monument visit: Jerónimos Monastery – this monastery is classified as UNESCO World Heritage Site, was built by King Manuel I in 1502 and it took about 100 years to be built. Is the maximum exponent of Manueline architecture, also known as the Portuguese Baroque.

– One tasting: Pastéis de Belém – as a result of the Liberal Revolution of 1820, in 1834 the convents and monasteries were closed. Was in this context that someone went to a sugar refinery close to the Jerónimos Monastery and put a few cookies on sale, these cookies are today known as the “Pastéis de Belém” and they must be the better worldwide known Portuguese sweets.

– The first walk: Baixa and Chiado – are two typical neighborhoods of the city and good representatives of the society of 18th and 19th centuries. Start by the view from the Viewpoint of São Pedro de Alcântara and walk downhill until the Camões Square and after this walk along the Garrett Street and end at Rossio. It is certainly a beautiful journey through Portuguese Romanticism and also a good opportunity to visit Baixa (downtown), the neighborhood that was built after the great earthquake of 1755.

Please check: Lisbon walking tour map – 1 of 2

– The second walk: Alfama and São Jorge Castle – Alfama is a medieval district and has been inhabited since the foundation of the city so it is here that we can find the oldest buildings in the city. Walking through the narrow streets of Alfama and observing its inhabitants is to know the typical Lisbon. Start your walk at the São Jorge castle and hence find the Miradouro das Portas do Sol from where we can see the roofs of Alfama, the quarter where we will walk until Terreiro do Paço.

Please check: Lisbon walking tour map – 2 of 2

Note: using a city map will help you making sense of all these names I’m mentioning.

Afternoon

Having walked in the morning, for the afternoon I will suggest more cultural moments for the afternoon, so I will propose a Museum and the Oceanarium visits.

– Museum of the City: it was easy to propose a visit to the Museum of Ancient Art (Museu de Arte Antiga), which is the most common suggestion you will find in terms of visits to museums. However, I believe this Museum, being an excellent Museum, does not offer something unique to those visiting Lisbon, here you will find excellent pieces that could be in any major European Museum but not necessarily Portuguese pieces. So I will propose a visit to the City Museum, a small museum, whose collection is not something extraordinary but has the particularity of being a very nice space and the collection is Portuguese, this is a truly Portuguese space.

– Oceanarium: is the second largest aquarium in the world which is by itself a sign of being something that you can hardly see elsewhere and has an extensive collection of marine creatures. It is located at Parque das Nações, which is an ideal area for a late afternoon beer and to end the active day.

After dinner

The visit to the city will not be complete without a stroll through the area of nightlife where you can have a drink and hear some music.

Of course, there are several areas in the city where this may happen but without complicating too much the explanation I would say that is in the Bairro Alto where you can find more diversity of bars.

Personally, I love bar “Pavilhão Chinês” (Chinese Pavilion), one of the most beautiful bars I know.

JOIN ME FOR A TOUR

Have fun in Lisbon.

David Monteiro

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Cliché photo of a waterfall in the Azores

Cliché photo of a waterfall in the Azores

Some shots are irresistible.

I was at Flowers Island, at the Azores archipelago that belongs to Portugal, spending days of vacations and, contrary to the rest of the year I was not in the mood for physical activities, which I do all year round. I wanted to enjoy being there, the place and the tranquility.

But, after two days of heavy rain and being confined to this cheap hotel room the relaxation was starting to annoy me a great deal.

We had planned to spend two days at Corvo island but it was impossible to go out or to arrive in Flores, boats, and planes are not running because of the bad weather. So, that tour went down the drain.

After this two days, the plan was to go spend some more days at Fajã Grande, the opposite extreme of the island.

With so much rain the soil couldn’t absorb more water and the creek and waterfalls were pumping of life in movement and colors.

On our way to Fajã Grande at a certain moment I saw another waterfall but without realizing how far I was a didn’t pay too much attention, it was just another one and … who cares for pictures of water falling from a cliff?

I was not for cliché photos were at that time until I reached the road that is close enough ear the water falling and that was really far anyway.

Ok, I was totally convinced to stop and photograph the scene.

David Monteiro

Location: Waterfall of the “Ribeira Grande” and viewpoint of Fajãzinha, Flores Island, Azores archipelago, Portugal

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Unknown places to walk – the river Alva dams

Unknown places to walk - the river Alva dams

The river Alva starts in the southwestern part of the Serra da Estrela and goes into the Mondego River upstream of Penacova, around 230km north from Lisbon.

At the mouth of the river Alva, and near Penacova, there are a number of small dams that allow a very interesting walk where we can cross the river several times from one side to the other, as we can see in the photographs of the various walks I led there.

With a good knowledge of the region, it is possible to predict the level of water passing over the dams in such a way that it becomes possible to do the crossings without taking your boots off.

 An unknown location, which does not come in tourist guides but well worth a visit and the hiking is fabulous, especially if it’s finished with a typical regional dinner with dishes such as “Chanfana” or a Lamprey Rice. I will write about these dishes later.

Let’s walk?

I will be expecting you.

David Monteiro

Originally posted 2015-12-28 12:37:30. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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Canyoning with the three stooges at Salto de Bierge – Spain

Once in a while I find astonishing  places, truly amazing locations.

It’s not easy for me to point one single place in between so many incredible places I know but sometimes there is something I can’t explain that makes location to shine in a different way it get stuck in my maind.

On the case of Salto de Bierge is quite obvious, just look to the pictures, the spot is definitely wonderful and, I can assure you that what you cannot see gives it even a greater interest.

This small dam of the river Alcanadre is located in the Sierra y Cañones de Guara Park, the Spanish Meca of canyoning. For those who don’t know what canyoning is please check this clip.

After a quite windy canyon the river Alcanadre arrives to a wide area where its waters slows down and spreads along a shallow bathing area.

Around here, besides being a pleasant area for a bath, one can jump from the river dam wall. It’s a 9,5m high wall and the falling will end in deeper waters, egnouphly deep to jump safely.

I came here for the first time on vacations with two friends, I was far from imagining that one day I would guide tours here.

At the time we thought it was a good idea to hire a local guide to l
ead us throughout the canyon, a real treat, really vacations time.

We was so excited that we didn’t pay too much attention to the guy saying: the canyon will require many jumps to the water increasingly higher along the way. The point here was that one of the three stooges was afraid to jump from high places.

As you can imagine it was quite an amusing morning until the moment that we arrived to the river dam wall and I realize that is was impossible for my friend to jump.

I never in the world could imagine he could say what he said: I WILL JUMP!!!!

I grabbed my disposable camera … dreadful camera … but the only one I had at the moment and I jumped to be able to capture his jump from a bottom up angle.

I was so excited that I almost lost the camera. Fortunately I was able to retrieve it.

One step to the void and there he was, the guy that refused all the jumps during all the canyon was jumping from the highest one.

The jump was immortalized in a lousy picture and all the crowd was clapping theirs hands … How did they knew? The third stooge had given short a speech before the jump telling everybody present about what was happening and the second stooge had is moment of glory.

What a day 🙂 thank you my friends for such memories.

David Monteiro

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A hard day at Sierra de Gredos – Spain

A hard day at Sierra de Gredos – Spain

The wind was blowing tremendously strong intensifying the wind chill effect and the fog was preventing us to see more than 50m ahead.

I knew the summit Almanzor was not too far from the point where we was standing but we were still missing the most difficult part to climb.

The team was not prepared to overcome such a difficult task and, on top of that there was no point to continue.

I knew everybody was eager to reach the top … we were so close …

“THAT IS IT GUYS … WE HAVE TO RETURN”

It’s hard having to “stop the fun” especially when I knew that everybody had traveled from so far away to climb this mountain but I know today that was the right decision at that time.

(one day earlier)

I can’t say the day before was sunny and with a blue sky, was not. Was kind of foggy day but good enough for a ice climbing introduction and I had the opportunity to explain all the techniques I was supposed to and, at the end was a wonderful working day.

We spent the night at the Refúgio Elola, the local mountain hut and I remember the substantial dinner we had, was something like a goulash in a Spanish way, whatever that is.

The climbing day was supposed to have better weather but Nature has its mysteries and during the night the Gods might had some disagreement in between them.

I slept regularly, in mountain huts I never sleep deeply but the fair amount to rest. Anyway, inside the mountain hut one cannot have the perception of the weather outside.

We left the hut around 5am, just before sunrise. It’s always better to start walking with hard snow.

There was no way to see the clouds and or to assess the weather for the next hours.

Around 8am the weather was already giving us a hard time and we was right before being exposed to the most severe area, we was about to be at the north face of the mountain, the windiest part.

Half an hour later I had all the team tide up to a rock, all prepared to climb the last section but there was when I realized the team couldn’t continue and you know the rest.

I’m joining a picture of the place but with god weather so you can understand where was we 🙂

The mountain is still there so we will try another day.

David Monteiro

 

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Walking to Cape Roca, Europe’s mainland westernmost

Cape Roca
Cape Roca

Have you ever walked to Cape Roca, Europe's mainland westernmost point?

Walking to Cape Roca is a way to prepare my guests for mountain walking tours.

Walking from Guincho to Cape Roca is one of the classic walking trails in Lisbon/Sintra area.

Quite close to Cascais, at Guincho, you will find some trails along the seacoast.

Walking these trails you will have the sensation of “I’m at the end of Europe”.

In fact, you are at the westernmost point of Europe mainland, the Cape Roca (38°46’49.59″N 9°29’56.19″W).

From the Cape Roca, or arriving here, you can walk many different trails.

I am going to focus on only one, from Forte do Guincho to Cape Roca, means from East to West.

North from Guincho, at Abano beach, you can find an XVII century fortress named Forte do Guincho.

This is one of several Portuguese military fortresses built after the revolution of Dec’1640.

An interesting flower to look for and to care for, around here, is the Armeria pseudarmeria.

This species is at risk of extinction both because tourists pick them up due to its beauty during blooming and because it only grows along these cliffs.

Granite is the king of the area.

It offers us magnificent cliffs often with more than 150m/492ft (+/-) high and with standalone rocks.

Some of these rocks look like guardians of the coast, always searching for the enemy boats at the horizon.

The sunsets at the west so one can take amazing sunset photos from the Cape Roca or very impressive photographs of the waves hitting the rocks.​

Map-Guincho-Cape-Roca

I usually come here with Portuguese guests before mountain hiking tours.

The trail is wonderful as a pre mountian tour preparation.

Have fun,

David Monteiro

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Walking the Congost de Mont-rebei, halfway to the Pyrenees – Spain

Walking the Congost de Mont-rebei, halfway to the Pyrenees - Spain

Nothing better like a nice walk to stretch your legs during a long van transfer, even better if is the Congost de Mont-rebei.

After a long flight, there is nothing worse than being seated in a car for 4 hours driving to doesn’t matter where. But that is what can happen when you are traveling to the Pyrenees after landing at the Barcelona Airport if you don’t have a backup plan.

Of course, you can fly to a closer airport like Huesca or Zaragoza. However, there are not many flights to those airports and in the end, it can take more time than getting there by car.

So, what to do to, at least to soften the long car ride? The answer is to stop somewhere nice for a walk and enjoy the place and instead of a long drive you just add an extra interesting day.

I was searching for a walk halfway to the Pyrenees because of the above reasons and this place caught my attention, is the Congost de Mont-rebei.

The Congost de Mont-rebei is the narrowest canyon of the river Noguera Ribagorzana, right in between the provinces of Huesca and Lleida, Spain.

Is located in quite remote hills and until the beginning of the XX century there were no roads to connect some local villages or with the existing roads, it was a very long ride. So, in 1912 a walking trail was built in the canyon to connect Corçà to Alsamora and other tinny little villages.

Later a river dam was also built and the first trail was flooded (you can see that in one of the photos) and was needed to build a new trail again but now in a higher altitude. In 1984 the second walking trail was finished allowing the people to cross from one side to the other.

More recently an iron bridge and some catwalks were added.

Map-Congost-Mont-rebei

The trail (red line) is not too far from Tremp, has 13 Km to each side without relevant elevation gain. Obviously, you can do a shorter distance because the most beautiful part of the trail is the canyon and it goes until the first 8 Km.

Allow me to suggest you take a sandwich or something else to bite, you will find a perfect place to do it, like my colleague in the photo.

Have fun.

David Monteiro

Location: Tremp, Spain

 

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River Bestança, beyond the Douro Valley wine region – Portugal

River Bestança, beyond the Douro Valley wine region – Portugal

The Douro Valley wine region is the oldest demarcated wine region in the world.

Is was established in 1756 by Marquis de Pombal, Portugal’s prime minister during the time of the king D. José I.

In the previous post, I described a walking tour trail I lead once in a while that takes place in the demarcated wine region. It’s a wonderful place where you can see all the landscape covered with vineyards.

However the demarcated region does not cover completely the Douro Valley and there is a part of the valley that was not “affected” by the rules of the demarcated region and the landscape is totally different, although being so close to each other.

The river Bestança valley is a hidden jewel even for Portuguese people. Here the trails are old paths that were used by farmers to access to their farming lands or where they still go with their cattle.

In the river Bestança Valley, you can find both the lifestyle of 100 years ago but also quite interesting hotels, like the case of Hotel Porto Antigo or manor houses that are totally equipped to receive guests.

Diversity is probably one of the strongest characteristics of the Portuguese territory where one do not have to go too far to be in a completely different scenario.

Enjoy.

David Monteiro

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Walking the Douro Valley – Portugal

Walk the Douro Valley trails and paths, Portugal

Walking along the river Douro – Portugal

The Douro Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and walking along the river Douro is a unique experience.

From the belvedere of São Salvador do Mundo (Saint Savior of the World), we can see a huge portion of river Douro.

The Belvedere is at 493 m high (1617 feet) at the top of a long slope.

At the top, you can see both river bank’s completely filled with vineyards.

Port wine and table Douro wine are produced here.

Looking around, the river dominates the landscape. Is like a long snake on its way to the ocean.

Almost all we can see from here are steep shores with vineyards.

Is there something else besides vineyards?

In the few little spaces that man is not be able to extract wine from the land, proud olive trees will be found whose fruit will produce one of the best Portuguese olive oils, the Douro Valley olive oil.

In addition to the olive trees, the almond trees stand out in number and, the closer we get to Pocinho, the almond trees become more numerous.

Is in the Algarve and Trás-os-Montes regions where there is a greater abundance of almond trees in Portugal.

The Douro train line.

This is an overwhelming location.

From this high point, a huge number of other summits can be spotted. There are countless mountains around here, spread as far as the human eye can reach.

Down the steep slope, very close to the river, the train slips through the railways. It looks like a toy.

It’s hard to distinguish the train and sometimes it seems like a caterpillar being swallowed by the landscape.

In fact, the train is going into some tunnels existing along the railway.

When the train passes, it always causes for joy and excitement.

I love to imagine what the people inside the train think about the group of walkers who apparently are in the middle of nowhere.

The train stations are perfect locations for brief stops, to eat a snack, and we can also admire the hand-painted tiles.

Porto São Bento, Pinhão and Pocinho are the train stations where you can see wonderful hand-painted tiles.

If you want to know more about the train ride please access here.

About the walks.

You can find many different kinds of walks.

Some of them are quite easy, on paved surfaces,  with wide-open views, as you can see in one or another photo here.

But the walks to the highest points are not easy, especially if you lack training but with some patience and walking slowly you will overcome the strong inclination of the trails.

In the end, at the top of the hill, you will finally get the reward for the effort by looking to these wide landscapes.

I prefer to walk during the first hours of the day.

It’s usually quite pleasant with a cold breeze and even some fog on the water.

Photo opportunities.

The river water condenses in the air, leaving a very slight mist. It gives a mystical ambiance to the Sunrise complementing this idyllic setting.

This is gold for photography lovers.

I can also say that this is a paradise for landscape photography with all sorts of angles.

The weather.

During summer months is very hot.

As the day progresses it starts to get warm reaching 40º C (104ºF) or higher during the summer.

However, early Spring or during the Fall one can have very nice weather.

When walking down towards the river, we will notice an increase in temperature, especially at a half hillside.

We understand why these grapes ripen so early in the season and we understand how life can be so hard around here for those who are harvesting vines.

A large part of these grapes are harvested by hand and, during harvesting season, there are numerous teams of people hired from everywhere to participate in the harvest.

What kinds of wine can we get here?

Port wine and table wine from the Douro region.

In another post, I will detail a bit more matters concerned with the port wine, the wine production, and the harvesting.

What about hand-painted tiles?

There is a long tradition of hand-painted tiles in Portugal and we can find impressive tile works in these train stations.

The train stations of Pinhão and Pocinho are the most impressive, hand-painted tiles wise.

When to visit the Douro Valley?

Between April and the end of May and between mid-September to late October the Douro Valley is just perfect to visit and to walk around.

Anyway, there is no one time better than the other, there are different seasons and with very different scenarios, although this is my favorite months.

Visiting the Douro Valley in September/October you will see the end of the harvesting season. The vines have dark red leaves and the scenario is an impressive spectacle of shades of red and one can take amazing photographs.

The grapes harvesting is probably the most important time of the year and all around you can see people carrying baskets of grapes in a huge frenzy.

What else to do in the Douro Valley?

This is a wine region so wine tastings are to be expected.

If you are at Pinhão, the heart of the Douro Valley, you can try one of the many farms with wine tastings.

Is also a good opportunity to earn more about Port wine and its differences versus still wines.

Suggestion: you can try Quinta do Bomfim for a wine cellar visit.

Enjoying one of the several upscale lodgings is an experience that worth the cost.

A suggestion: Quinta Nova Nossa Senhora do Carmo

In a landscape dominated by the River, the hike could not finish better than with an excellent ride on a Rabelo boat.

The Rabelo boat is the wooden typical boat of the Douro River that was once used to transport the barrels of wine to Vila Nova de Gaia, in front of Porto.

From Vila Nova de Gaia, the wine was then shipped to the rest of the world.

The river waters are usually calm and the Rabelo boat, with its wide hull, is a very stable and comfortable vessel, sailing toward the mouth, to the West.

Ahead of us, the sunset is the end of a fabulous day, a treasure to save.

Suggestion: Magnífico Douro Wooden Rabelo Boats for a boat ride.

Check our tour to the Dour Valley here.

David Monteiro