May 11, Coimbre - Piódão - Ponte das Tres Entradas

Leaving Coimbra, the N110 followed the River Mondego and led us up a lush pine, sycamore, and eucalyptus forested valley, past luxury villas and small prosperous looking villages overlooking sandy riverside beaches. Much to Sheila's chagrin, Kate our GPS took us on one of her “shortcuts” through the steep, narrow streets of small, quaint Rebordosa before finally letting us back onto the main road. Sheila dislikes having to take Brunhilde on these steep, narrow lanes and alleys, but I am quite used to it and am even beginning to enjoy threading our way past parked cars, pulling in our side-view mirrors to manoeuvre between medieval stone walls with inches to spare, and occasionally reversing out of a blind or blocked alley. Back on the N110 we continued towards Penacova where we turned south, stopping for coffee (our own) at a little pull out with cement picnic tables engraved with the names of local towns. Sadly, the poor financial times were again evident. The grass reached the tables, the table tops were covered in leaf and bark litter, moss grew in the engraved names, and the cobbestones of the path were loose and overgrown. We climbed out of the valley, stopping for a view of Kate's village short cut from above. A man with his nanny goat on a leash and her kid following wrestled her off the road to make way for us. We emerged onto the plateau of pine and eucalyptus plantations and of active logging and the town of Arrifana,  Winding our way east across the plateau to Arganil and northeast to Coja. It seemed strange to be traveling through large rolling areas of active forest, similar except for the Eucalyptus, to the pine plantations of the B.C. interior and then suddenly into the white washed stone walls, red tile roofs and narrow streets of a quiet Portuguese village. Still on the plateau, we stumbled upon the lovely village of Coja. straddling the Rio Alva (tributary to the Mondego). The graceful stone arches of a  single lane bridge connected the village . On the east bank, the local church and its spires gleamed white in the sun. On the west, steep narrow lanes and walkways connected a cluster of small, bright orange tiled roofed, white washed homes and immaculate white walled vegetable gardens to the river and bridge below. Quiet conversations drifted into the lane from behind the garden walls and through open windows as I walked. East of Coja, we climbed into the Serra do Açor until the landscape of broom and heather resembled the moors of Scotland. The route followed ridges, providing views down successive valleys and across the plateau. Large, modern, white windmills stood like sentinels or watchtowers, their giant blades turning languidly, gracefully in  the wind. Along the road, jagged outcrops of dark grey slate provided perfect backdrops for rugged heathers, brooms, and grasses, creating exemplary rock gardens that would inspire envy in horticultural hobbyists the world over. Below us scattered white villages with their orange tiled roofs and terraced fields basked in the warmth the sun. Beyond stretched the plateau we had just crossed. And finally, the descent into Piódão, billed in the guide book as "a chance to see rural Portugal at its most pristine."  Deep in the Serra do Açor, isolated with no road access or electricity until 1972, this pedestrian village retains a sense of its agrarian origins but, is in fact, quite atypical of mountain villages in Portugal. Instead of the white washed walls and orange tiled roofs, Piódão was built of grey slate, grey slate terraces, grey slate walls and grey slate roofs, set off with white and blue window and door trim and by a glistening white church, looking as though pattered after a Disney animated feature. From a distance, surrounded by terraced fields, its idyllic rural persona was spoiled only by the scattered whitewashed walls and orange tiled roofs of newer buildings, by the cars parked in the parking lot at the entrance, and on the outskirts by a large luxury hotel with ranks of scooters available for the trip into the village. Our arrival at the village was greeted by a terrace restaurant, cafe, snack and souvenir craft shops. It was Sunday, the congregation was singing hymns in the glistening white church while tourists milled about the souvenir shops or sat at tables drinking beer or wine. However, deep in the village, climbing the steep narrow, slate stairways and pathways between the dark slate walls, roofs, and terraces, we could imagine ourselves in the village before the road, electricity, and tourists arrived. From the  village it became evident that only nearby terraces are maintained, some are seeded to grain, others left in pasture, only a few are cultivated for vegetables. The narrow, roughly surfaced back road north from Piódão (CM1134) gave further evidence of a lost way of life. Away from the village the fields are untended, olive trees unpruned, stone walls collapsing, interconnecting paths and stone stairways overgrown and crumbling, slate roofed and walled homes collapsing. Painfully picturesque, they are the sad, decaying remnants of a lost way of life. We encountered a small traffic jam as tourists jostled for parking places above the picturesque, if theme park like resort of Foz de Égua. We stopped and debated hiking down to the creek with its single arch, stone bridge, modern suspension bridge walkways, and well tended paths, but it was getting late and after reassuring some German tourists that the rough road would indeed get them to Piódão, and after being stung by a bee, we set off for our campsite. En route, the mining town of Malhada Cilhas with many of its buildings collapsing  had clearly seen better times, but the service centre of Vide, its streetside bar doing good custom, was in good repair and seemed prosperous and vital.  Just north of Vide, our route headed west to Ponte das Tres Entradas, a quiet, shaded campsite, next to a still stretch of the Rio Alva. Just upstream from a weir, we could hear the gentle flow of water passing over the stones while upstream the quiet waters of the river reflected the stone arches of the bridge. A before dinner gin and tonic with crisps at the campground bar before returning to the van for dinner seemed just the thing and was only a little disappointing because the Gin wasn’t Tanquerey or the tonic Shweppes and therefore not a “real” G&T. After dinner, we noticed a strange man, his balding head like a monk's shaved pate with a long dark gray fringe, darkly tanned, and in his 60s. He was driving an old, aquamarine, right-hand drive Datsun 1400 pickup and set up a one-person tent the size of an army cot and mounted on legs. Using a long pruning pole, he began to prune the poplars around the campsite, just poplars, nothing else and left the pruned limbs on the ground. The campground owner came out to speak to him, and left bemused. He returned with a camera, took some pictures, and disappeared. The strange monkish man paid no notice and continued his unsolicited task until dark.
View of sandy beach and campground on the Mondego from Casal da Misarela Approaching Penacova on the A110. A reluctant nanny, her kid, and owner. Delightful Coja straddles the Rio Alva. Natural slate rock garden  and view across the plateay while ascending the Serra do Açor. Piódão: slate roofs, slate wallls, slate terraces, slate paths Prosperous Vide
A Sense of Place:  Travel, Photography, and Photo-art
by David E. Moon
© David E. Moon, 2014  All rights reserved
Slideshow Slideshow Route Map Route Map

May 11, Coimbre - Piódão - Ponte das

Tres Entradas

Leaving Coimbra, the N110 followed the River Mondego and led us up a lush pine, sycamore, and eucalyptus forested valley, past luxury villas and small prosperous looking villages overlooking sandy riverside beaches. Much to Sheila's chagrin, Kate our GPS took us on one of her “shortcuts” through the steep, narrow streets of small, quaint Rebordosa before finally letting us back onto the main road. Sheila dislikes having to take Brunhilde on these steep, narrow lanes and alleys, but I am quite used to it and am even beginning to enjoy threading our way past parked cars, pulling in our side-view mirrors to manoeuvre between medieval stone walls with inches to spare, and occasionally reversing out of a blind or blocked alley. Back on the N110 we continued towards Penacova where we turned south, stopping for coffee (our own) at a little pull out with cement picnic tables engraved with the names of local towns. Sadly, the poor financial times were again evident. The grass reached the tables, the table tops were covered in leaf and bark litter, moss grew in the engraved names, and the cobbestones of the path were loose and overgrown. We climbed out of the valley, stopping for a view of Kate's village short cut from above. A man with his nanny goat on a leash and her kid following wrestled her off the road to make way for us. We emerged onto the plateau of pine and eucalyptus plantations and of active logging and the town of Arrifana,  Winding our way east across the plateau to Arganil and northeast to Coja. It seemed strange to be traveling through large rolling areas of active forest, similar except for the Eucalyptus, to the pine plantations of the B.C. interior and then suddenly into the white washed stone walls, red tile roofs and narrow streets of a quiet Portuguese village. Still on the plateau, we stumbled upon the lovely village of Coja. straddling the Rio Alva (tributary to the Mondego). The graceful stone arches of a  single lane bridge connected the village . On the east bank, the local church and its spires gleamed white in the sun. On the west, steep narrow lanes and walkways connected a cluster of small, bright orange tiled roofed, white washed homes and immaculate white walled vegetable gardens to the river and bridge below. Quiet conversations drifted into the lane from behind the garden walls and through open windows as I walked. East of Coja, we climbed into the Serra do Açor until the landscape of broom and heather resembled the moors of Scotland. The route followed ridges, providing views down successive valleys and across the plateau. Large, modern, white windmills stood like sentinels or watchtowers, their giant blades turning languidly, gracefully in  the wind. Along the road, jagged outcrops of dark grey slate provided perfect backdrops for rugged heathers, brooms, and grasses, creating exemplary rock gardens that would inspire envy in horticultural hobbyists the world over. Below us scattered white villages with their orange tiled roofs and terraced fields basked in the warmth the sun. Beyond stretched the plateau we had just crossed. And finally, the descent into Piódão, billed in the guide book as "a chance to see rural Portugal at its most pristine."  Deep in the Serra do Açor, isolated with no road access or electricity until 1972, this pedestrian village retains a sense of its agrarian origins but, is in fact, quite atypical of mountain villages in Portugal. Instead of the white washed walls and orange tiled roofs, Piódão was built of grey slate, grey slate terraces, grey slate walls and grey slate roofs, set off with white and blue window and door trim and by a glistening white church, looking as though pattered after a Disney animated feature. From a distance, surrounded by terraced fields, its idyllic rural persona was spoiled only by the scattered whitewashed walls and orange tiled roofs of newer buildings, by the cars parked in the parking lot at the entrance, and on the outskirts by a large luxury hotel with ranks of scooters available for the trip into the village. Our arrival at the village was greeted by a terrace restaurant, cafe, snack and souvenir craft shops. It was Sunday, the congregation was singing hymns in the glistening white church while tourists milled about the souvenir shops or sat at tables drinking beer or wine. However, deep in the village, climbing the steep narrow, slate stairways and pathways between the dark slate walls, roofs, and terraces, we could imagine ourselves in the village before the road, electricity, and tourists arrived. From the  village it became evident that only nearby terraces are maintained, some are seeded to grain, others left in pasture, only a few are cultivated for vegetables. The narrow, roughly surfaced back road north from Piódão (CM1134) gave further evidence of a lost way of life. Away from the village the fields are untended, olive trees unpruned, stone walls collapsing, interconnecting paths and stone stairways overgrown and crumbling, slate roofed and walled homes collapsing. Painfully picturesque, they are the sad, decaying remnants of a lost way of life. We encountered a small traffic jam as tourists jostled for parking places above the picturesque, if theme park like resort of Foz de Égua. We stopped and debated hiking down to the creek with its single arch, stone bridge, modern suspension bridge walkways, and well tended paths, but it was getting late and after reassuring some German tourists that the rough road would indeed get them to Piódão, and after being stung by a bee, we set off for our campsite. En route, the mining town of Malhada Cilhas with many of its buildings collapsing  had clearly seen better times, but the service centre of Vide, its streetside bar doing good custom, was in good repair and seemed prosperous and vital.  Just north of Vide, our route headed west to Ponte das Tres Entradas, a quiet, shaded campsite, next to a still stretch of the Rio Alva. Just upstream from a weir, we could hear the gentle flow of water passing over the stones while upstream the quiet waters of the river reflected the stone arches of the bridge. A before dinner gin and tonic with crisps at the campground bar before returning to the van for dinner seemed just the thing and was only a little disappointing because the Gin wasn’t Tanquerey or the tonic Shweppes and therefore not a “real” G&T. After dinner, we noticed a strange man, his balding head like a monk's shaved pate with a long dark gray fringe, darkly tanned, and in his 60s. He was driving an old, aquamarine, right-hand drive Datsun 1400 pickup and set up a one-person tent the size of an army cot and mounted on legs. Using a long pruning pole, he began to prune the poplars around the campsite, just poplars, nothing else and left the pruned limbs on the ground. The campground owner came out to speak to him, and left bemused. He returned with a camera, took some pictures, and disappeared. The strange monkish man paid no notice and continued his unsolicited task until dark.
A Sense of Place:  Travel, Photography, and Photo-art
by David E. Moon
© David E. Moon, 2014  All rights reserved
Slideshow Slideshow Route Map Route Map View of sandy beach and campground on the Mondego from Casal da Misarela Approaching Penacova on the A110. A reluctant nanny had to be dragged from the road but her kid followed. Delightful Coja straddles the Rio Alva. Natural slate rock garden  and view across the plateay while ascending the Serra do Açor. Piódão: slate roofs, slate wallls, slate terraces, slate paths Prosperous Vide