Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Quinta das Cancelas to Ponte de Lima

You walk past vineyards, tiny grapes just beginning to form. There are thousands of vineyards here in northern Portugal that produce "vinho verde". The "green wine", bottled while still fermenting, frothy, fruity, best consumed young.

Down farm lanes and cobbled paths you walk, low stone walls centuries old, mossy green, sprouting tiny pink and white asters. You walk past fields of purple wildflowers, the hills above yellow with Portuguese broom in blossom.

You walk by scenes that have played out for generations if not centuries by these same families. A wife watches her husband plow a field. Laundry is hung to dry. A man repairs a scarecrow. A mother pulls a child in a cart. Hay is stooked by hand.

Farm fields and vineyards give way to a forest path. A brook babbles below. A hillside studded with Cala lillies. Brilliant pink foxglove interrupt the green and white. Birdsong loud overhead.

The forest gives way to farmland, gives way to ancient hamlets, stone wall beside stone wall. Ancient stone churches and immaculate farmhouses and casas in ruins blend one to the next until you reach a cobblestone path. Grape arbours over top, their shadows intense under the Portuguese sun. The path becomes a riverside walkway alongside the River Lima. The magnificent arched stone bridge, Ponte de Lima, appears ahead of you. The city, beautifully restored. The river filled with rowers. Swallows. Music.

You have arrived.