Ever wanted to visit Portugal? Here’s a good place to start:
Valença (also known as Valença do Minho) – a fortress city, situated in the North of Portugal, right on the border with Spain/Galicia. Guarded by water (Minho river) and fire (quite frequent in the summer), this city is the best starting point in a one or two-week journey through Portugal.
Here is Valença in 5+1 images:
001.1 Valença, the fortress city, as seen from across the river Minho (I did the picture from the International Bridge, exactly from the point that marks the limit between Portugal and Spain).
001.2 The view of the fortress from the Porta da Gabiarra (in the spring)(as you come from Spain).
001.3 Closing in to the gate of Valença.
001.4 A peek into the quiet city.
001.5 Valença and the crown shaped walls.
001.6 Beautifully back in time on the Lopes da Silva Street. Even in black and white, the Azulejos (blue) tiles, are a memorable sight.
Is easy to get here, just take a plane to Portugal’s Porto (Oporto) and from there you can take the train (more info in a while), bus or even rent a car. If you come from Spain, is easy as well, just land somewhere in Galicia (Vigo, Santiago de Compostela) and the same bus that comes from Porto will get you from Vigo to Valença. There are also trains… but renting a car is cheaper in Portugal (than Spain) and it will serve you well during your stay.
Ah and if you just happen to be in Tui, you can actually walk into Valença. (on the blue bridge, as seen in the image below and also in this article 002)
001.7 Valença and the old International Bridge (made by Gustave Eiffel ) built to cross the Minho river. Image, as seen from Tui (Spain/Galicia)
001.8 The train station, situated at 14 min walk to the fortress.
001.9 The view over Spain, from Portugal.
001.10 The wall, as seen in the winter (as you come from the Blue “Eiffel” Bridge).
In this area (north of Portugal), from mid-winter to mid-spring, raining is as frequent as almost every day (and it does rain every day, for weeks…). But that should not stop you from discovering Portugal. From time to time you can get great shots with beautiful clouds, especially at dawn, or with clouds forming from the forests. Also, during Christmas, all Portugal has a lot to show. (so search for the article 024, as it becomes available)
001.11 These heavy doors, were closed for the first time in the XVII-XVIII th century in order to protect Valença.
001.12 The maze inside the walls.
001.13 The maze outside of the walls. Clearly, your stay in this city should be greater than a few hours, since there is a lot to see even from the outside.
001.15 The busy streets with merchandise all over, with people yelling about what they sell.
At least the stores are opened to all pockets nowadays. In my opinion, there are just too many stores, selling the same products and just a few with real handmade…
001.16 Camera Municipal de Valença.
At this point, you should consider finding a table and get re-energized. Also, it might be the best time to taste a delicious, sweet and great with coffee -> Pastel de nata, also known as Portuguese custard tart.
001.17 Portuguese refreshing.
001.18 On the Lopes da Silva Street, you will find a few gorgeous buildings, dressed up on Azulejos (blue) tiles.
The famous blue painted tiles are nowadays done mostly by Portuguese people (since the XVIII-th century, Portugal is the biggest producer) and they come in more than just white and blue. In fact, back in the XVI-th century the first ones to decorate the houses with ceramic tiles (in the Iberia Peninsula) were the Moors. (more examples in later articles)
001.19 Outside the busy streets lies another maze, of narrow, stony roads, connecting houses, churches and much more…
001.20 Inside the beautiful Santo Estevao Church, with wooden roof and not so much waste of gold, as Bom Jesus Capela.
001.21 Did you think that walking outside the walls, inside the walls or between the walls, was all that is to it, then think again. You can walk also on top of the green walls.
001.22 And some, that already have a house, can also live inside the wall.
001.23 Valença is a beautiful example of today’s communion of different nations, once separated by more than just a river.
In fact even more into time, during the Roman period, the Romans used to camp here, before crossing to Tui, as they were coming from Braga (Braga was the capital city of the Gallecia Province). There is even a Roman milestone in Valença (check the map above), set there back in I-st AD. In fact this whole region from north of Galicia (Cantabrian Sea) to as close as Porto, it was one whole Roman province -> Gallecia.
So Romans built bridges (see article 003), then later Portuguese built walls, and from 1879, there is again a bridge, one to re-connect with the others by rail and road.
But even so, there is a part of Valença that is abandoned but surely, full of stories.
001.24 Green tiles.
001.25 Shattered tiles.
Now, did I convince you to plan a trip to Portugal?
If not just yet, well I am sure that in the following articles you will find more about why to come to this great country.
In short, I plan to show a 2 weeks journey from the north of Portugal to Lisbon, while travelling through dinosaurs times, Neolithic, Roman, Medieval, Industrial, Yesterday and Tomorrow. This country, might not be as populated as her bigger sister, but it sure packs a lot to see and experience and we do owe a lot to its people.
So grab a plane ticket to Porto (Oporto – Portugal) or to Santiago de Compostela/Vigo (Spain) or even A Coruna (Spain).
From there stop from visiting and please start by Valença. Why?
Because somehow, from North to South, Portugal has better and better experiences. Some places will hold you for a few hours but those will be memorable. Other places will require even a week (if you have it) and they will make you keep coming in the future. But as you progress, south toward Lisbon, your emotions grow also and there is a feeling of bigger ad bigger.
So jump into a bus or a train (or get a rent) and start this great, emotional journey:
https://www.cp.pt/passageiros/en (sadly high-speed train doesn’t go as far as Valença, but regional will do, as the distance is not big, from Porto)
http://www.renfe.com/EN/viajeros/index.html (here you can actually buy a ticket, but it means you have to come from Spain)
Car rental is best from Portugal, as is cheaper (at least it was in 2016/17/18 – when I used to travel) than Spain, and as a bonus, you don’t pay the highways.
http://ventas.autna.com/billetes/comprar/ (the bus is a great choice for transportation, and because in Portugal, people speak at least another foreign language FR/EN everything is easy). There are many bus companies, but from Porto airport to Valença, this is the best company. Once you buy the ticket, please print the paper and take it with you, to show it to the driver. Don’t think about choosing the seats…
You could also walk, but that would mean that you come from the St. James Pilgrim Route and the best variant is the Spanish route -> less danger from forest fires, more travelers on the route.
I hope this article peek your interest in Valença and I hope you visit pixelstravel.com again in the next article 002 – TUI – Two countries on foot.