Thursday, 15 May 2008

Memories of Spain, part 10

Strictly speaking, this should be memories of Spain and Portugal, but what the hey?
We left the hotel under mostly sunny skies though it was fairly cool. Note that in the above photo I am wearing my windbreaker and leggings. Margo and Chris' room was on the balcony and had a very nice view of the village.The fact that it wasn't warm can be seen by the fact that the village cats were remarkably torpid. They were much more interested in sunning themselves than in us.Our host had suggested a particular road (that wasn't on our map) would be both scenic and get us to where we wanted to go. He was right. The area was something of a flat tableland with what looked like fairly thin soil given the numerous outcroppings of rock and the frequent use of stone for fences by the locals.
This made the change of scenery in Portugal all the more remarkable. After crossing the border at the dam below (and not seeing a welcome to Portugal sign as I have written about previously) the land became much rugged.
However, it was rugged in a different way than Spain. In Spain, the slopes were caused by hills and mountains, whereas in Portugal it seemed that the slopes were cause by valleys. I know that must sound strange. In Spain, a road squiggling on a map meant that there was a pass. In Portugal that meant the road was going down into a valley to cross a river. Here is one such example.
I am exaggerating a bit, and I only intend my statement to apply to the relatively small bit of Portugal I saw which was the northeastern corner of the country near Braganca.

One of the strange things to see was the difference in apparent wealth of Spain and Portugal. It was surprising how obvious is was that Portugal is a poorer country than Spain. (Or at least the small bit I saw.) It was also amusing to see that Portuguese border towns evidently do a good business selling a variety of goods (such as furniture) to the Spanish as they are evidently cheaper in Portugal than in Spain (probably for EU tax reasons, etc.). Contrary to statements made by a Spaniard the previous day, the Portuguese drivers were not particularly bad compared to the Spanish. Moreover, there were relatively fewer cars on the roads. This might have been because of the relative poverty of the Portuguese or because we were in the "back forty" of Portugal.
The day ended on a glorious note as we had a long, gentle downhill down the side of a valley (pictured above) on a road that hugged the walls. Combined with the golden light of the setting sun, it was fantastically beautiful.

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