sexta-feira, 10 de outubro de 2008

Jesus and Mary

We have been walking around the Resende area, in the Douro valley, in the north of Portugal, tracking walks for São, a local landowner and winemaker. It is generally wonderful, as the photographs below attest to. However, there are occupational hazards. A very constant one is the threat of barking dogs. Aggressive, mangy, rabid-looking dogs. They just bark, and luckily never attack (so far).

On one occasion we were directed up a side road, which turned out to be a dead end. But before discovering this, we walked what seemed like the gauntlet of aggressive, rabid-looking dogs. On the way back from our dead end way, we noticed this white vision of a welcoming Christ with his bare, full-breasted friend. Mary Magdalene perhaps?

Another occupational hazard – in the realm of aesthetics, or is it comic relief? – is the sight of kitsch garden and gate ornaments. Mainly white gesso figures, which take the shape of the usual lions and gnomes, but also, more interestingly and unexpectedly, dragons with footballs. In case we have forgotten that Portugal is a football-crazy country.

One morning we woke up to this long narrow cloud at our eye level. It seemed to be a reflection of the river, winding its way between the hills.

This is the river beach at Porto Rei. It is about 5km from Fundo de Vila, the farm where we are staying, and from whence we leave on our walks. The walk to Porto Rei was gorgeous, and one of the best we have done. A path runs along the river, about 100m up. The colours were autumnal, and some of the vegetation was completely new to us and seemed to have been beamed down from another planet. We even met some slugs on the way, given that it had rained very heavily the previous day.

We stopped along the way to have an ‘al fresco’ packed lunch, and to watch the trains on the other side of the river, coming and going from Porto.

We eventually reached the river beach, and were met by these rather listless swan- and duck-shaped paddle boats. It seemed like we were the only visitors to the place, but the lady at the beach’s café said that the bathing season is July to September, when the beach gets truly crowded. However, the bathing seems to take place mainly in the swimming pool which has been built by the side of the river.

The coffee we had at the café (a bica, which is the equivalent of an espresso) packed the right punch to set us on the second leg of our walk.

High land


Getting to Porto takes approximately two hours on the train from Régua. On leaving the small Douro town, the train runs along the river, giving us the opportunity to stick our heads out of the train window trying to spot the farm where we are staying, and nice places for river swimming.

In Porto, still in the walking mood, we decide to walk from the centre of the city to Museu Serralves, about 3km northwest from Sao Bento station, the central one. Wanting to keep to the spirit of adventure, or for some other reason, we decide to not follow a map, until we get hideously lost walking around a university sports field and trying to get from one side of the motorway to the other.

We finally arrived, and rewarded ourselves with an ice cold beer, and two good exhibitions, one a sort of retrospective of Manoel de Oliveira’s oeuvre, and another of David Goldblatt’s work.

Along our walk we came across different examples of contemporary architecture, the strangest being this one below. We concluded it might be student accommodation. And that there might have been a show of some kind recently, although now there was absolutely no crowd to control.

And finally, the perfect symmetry of the garden of the Museu Serralves.