Monday, April 4, 2011

A Walk in the Woods

Helena, a teacher from the school where I volunteer, asked if I'd like to join her for an event with a newly-formed walking group from Braga.  She explained that we'd be walking through a wooded area in the hills near the coast.  It sounded fun, so I was definitely in!  I didn't realize that it would be so much more than just a walk in the woods. 

When we arrived at Esposende, the skies looked ominous, but we forged ahead anyway.   The air was refreshingly cool and the path was beautiful; lined with eucalyptus and pines.  The organizers of the walk invited Jorge, a local archaeologist, to join the group.  Our first stop was a high viewpoint overlooking the Atlantic ocean.  The sweeping views of small towns and coastline were lovely!

helping us reach our next destination

Our next stop was at a series of windmills constructed on a hillside.  Until recently, they had been used to grind flour in the summer months.  Several of the windmills have been restored and are now used by families or rented as cozy guest cottages.  We stopped at one that is owned by a woman whose grandmother had run the mill.  The interior has been converted into a small living space but the sails can still be unfurled to activate the milling mechanism.  The owner demonstrated how the roof rotates in order to direct the sails, and we got to see the mill in action.

one of many windmills in the area

In the winter and spring, water flows from the mountains behind the windmills and was used to operate watermills in this area.  No longer used for milling, there was still a LOT of water flowing through the channels used to direct the flow towards the water wheel.


From there, we hiked into a heavily forested area that is sprinkled with dolmen, which are megalithic tombs built from huge vertical and horizontal stones. They are from the late Stone Age so they are about 5000 years old!  At this site, the entrance to each tomb is long and narrow (always opening to the east) and leads to a circular burial chamber with waves etched into the stone.  The shape of the tombs is reminiscent of a womb and birth canal, and the deceased were buried in the fetal position.

Jorge explains the significance of the
Stone Age tombs

Our last stop was at the Castro de São Lourenço, a pre-Roman hilltop village that was occupied from about 300 B.C.  Although there is still ongoing excavation at this site, the foundations of many structures have been unearthed and several have been restored with historical accuracy.  Because of its strategic location, this site was used as a fortress throughout the Middle Ages.

pre-Roman foundations and restored home 

The history in this country runs so deep that I can barely wrap my brain around it!  I can't believe that so many traces of human history can be found in such a small area.  At the end of our hike, I was definitely ready to rest and process all the amazing things I had seen. 

Helena & I are happy to be out of the rain & ready to eat!

Dodging some gigantic raindrops, we returned to Esposende and went to O Buraco for lunch. Esposende, an old fishing village and seaweed harvesting point, is one of the coastal towns participating in a month-long seafood festival.  Oh the seafood!  Appetizers included mussels with pepper relish, garlic & wine basted clams, and giant prawns.  Our main course was a huge boat of arroz de tamboril com gambas which is chunks of monkfish, shrimp and rice cooked in a slightly spicy tomato, herb and white wine broth.  I almost fell face first into my plate - the flavors were lush and lively.  For dessert I had a gorgeous pear poached in a saffron syrup.

a boat full of monkfish rice
What an amazing day!  I thought I was just going to take a little walk near the coast with a friend, but it turned out to be so much more!  I truly enjoyed the opportunity to get to know Helena better, met some fun people, and saw many layers of Portuguese history that were completely new to me.  I am already looking forward to our next trek!

saffron poached pear

~ Peggy


  1. very good the pics and your words,,congrats my friend

  2. Hello..

    Nice report! Love it!

    Tell-me your adress to yhe send a post card fron Esposende. i send a web site..because we have a many other documents to download, in english too:

    voiceguides, posters and flyers...

    see later and kisses. nice to see u again!

  3. Bom Dia Peggy,

    My husband and I are sure enjoying your Blog! We are friends of good friends of Ellyn and Steve whom you met thru their Blog while they were in Lisbon, he on a Fulbright Scholarship.
    My husband and I will be in Portugal starting the 6th of June in Lisbon and then on the 12th renting a car for 9 days and going to explore the Northern part of Portugal.
    Will you still be around, we would love to meet you? We would love to do the hike you just wrote about. Luckily Jorge posted the web site since Rick Steves book doesn't go that far north!
    Hope to hear from you,

    Adeus, Elenita & Howard

  4. Bom dia Elenita & Howard!
    I just sent a private message to you via this blog and 'friends connect' but I'm not sure if it went through or not. Let me know if it didn't make it to you!