Viana do Castelo
On the 2nd day of our trip to the North Coast of Portugal, 13th June 2012, we used the entrance ticket given in the Gil Eannes Youth Hostel to visit the Gil Eannes Hospital Ship Museum. I highly recommend a visit to the ship, it’s very interesting and it’s a good opportunity to learn a lot about ships and cod fishing.
As we wanted to catch the train to Vila Nova de Cerveira, we didn’t have enough time to view all the informative panels in detail. If you are going to visit the Gil Eannes Hospital Ship, be prepared to spend at least 2 hours in there.
Vila Nova de Cerveira
We arrived in Vila Nova de Cerveira at almost midday and we left our luggage in the Youth Hostel, where we spent the remaining two nights of our trip.
Vila Nova de Cerveira was founded by King D. Dinis in 1321. The name of the town is explained by the follow legend:
“Once upon a time…there was a stag chosen by the gods of Olympus to become a King. The stag moved, together with other stags, to that uninhabited territory that became know by “Terras de Cervaria” (Land of Stags). Many years flew past. Fights and calamities gradually devastated the colony of stags until only King Stag was left.
According to the legend, at the time of the Reconquest to conquer what would become the Portucalense County, a noblemen from Asturias challenged King Stag to a face to face duel. King Stag accepted and he won. He kept the nobleman’s flag, which turned to be the King’s coat of arms. But King Stag wasn´t immortal and, tired of living, old and alone, he died”
But the legend wasn’t forgotten. Nowadays, Vila Nova de Cerveira’s coat of arms has a stag standing in a green field. Beside that, an iron sculpture of “Rei Cervo” (King Stag) was built at the top of the mountain in the municipality of Vila Nova de Cerveira.
Back to our trip. After we had left the youth hostel, we tried to climb to the “Miradouro do Monte da Senhora da Encarnação” ( Viewpoint of the Mountain of Lady of the Incarnation), to the place where the sculpture of “Rei Cervo” stands. But, as we lost some time trying to find the right way and as we wanted to catch the train to Valença after lunchtime, we ran out of time. Therefore, the highest point we went was the “Capela da Senhora da Encarnação” (Chapel of Our Lady of the Incarnation).
Even from there, we had an astonishing view of the mountains on the Portuguese and Galician sides and of the River Minho with its two islands, Boega island and “Ilha dos Amores” (Love Island).
On our way to the viewpoint of the “Monte da Senhora da Encarnação”, we passed by the medieval “Forca” (Gallows)” of Vila Nova de Cerveira. The old Gallows is located in the outskirts of the town, in one of its highest places, in order to be visible and, consequently, to have a deterrent effect in the population.
Valenca do Minho is bounded to the north by the Minho River, which establishes the border with Spain. Valença was originally a fortress town built to defend Portugal from Spanish incursion. Nowadays, Spanish incursion is encouraged. Valença is peaceful invaded by Spanish that visits the town with commercial and touristic purposes.In Valença we visited the “Fortaleza” (Fortress). I confess I was a bit disappointed. I don´t know exactly what I was expecting to see when we entered the Fortress, but I know, for sure, it wasn’t textile shops at every corner. There were pyjamas, towels, bed clothes and carpets everywhere.
We were expecting to need a lot of time to visit the fortress, but it only took about 40 minutes.
We would have enough time to visit Tui (Spain) and come back, but as we were felling tired, we just waited for the next train to take us back to Vila Nova de Cerveira.
We should have followed our initial plan, which was: first visit Valença and perhaps Tui and then, when the temperature was more pleasant, climb the mountain to the sculpture of “Rei Cervo” (King Stag) and enjoy the sunset from there.
Back to Vila Nova de Cerveira
It felt so good to arrive at the Vila Nova de Cerveira Youth Hostel. But before we could rest, we had to walk around 2 Km to go to the supermarket to buy some food and water and then return to the hostel.
After a refreshing bath, we went to the village center looking for a restaurant to have dinner. We found a few restaurants, but all of them were closed. After walking around and around we only found a Pizzeria Cafe where we order pizza. It was the pizza with most cheese I ever ate, but it was good.
Before going back to the hostel, to have a good night of sleep, we wandered in the town. Vila Nova de Cerveira is very beautiful at night, but there’s no nightlife there, at least during weekdays.