October, 19, 2012 – Viseu, Portugal

After sleeping really soundly last night, we have a nice breakfast at the hotel and are off. We leave a little later than anticipated and realize part way through today’s journey that we are going to have to omit one of our stops. We were going to stop at Guarda and Viseu, Portugal on our way to Amarante but even though we gain an hour when we enter Portugal, there just isn’t enough time. We decide our one stop will be in Viseu.

At the border between Spain and Portugal we are stopped and pulled over by the Spanish police. They are looking for people carrying more than 10,000 EUR. We explain that we only have 300 EUR but they want to look at our luggage. They go through the outside pockets of John’s suitcase. After finding only empty plastic bags (pretty suspicious) and flip flops (less suspicious), they decide we are not drug dealers, terrorists, or money launderers. They let us proceed. We are a bit shaken by this as the last time we were searched was in 1971 crossing the Canadian border. However, since John no longer sports long hair and a beard, we look a little less counter-culture. I decide that taking pictures of this episode is probably not the right thing to do.

The terrain has changed greatly. Where as yesterday we were in the Spanish plain (where quite appropriately the rain mainly fell), Portugal is ruggedly mountainous, sunshine-y and appears poorer.

We arrive in Viseu around lunchtime, negotiate scary narrow streets, find a parking space, and make our way to the cathedral and Grao Vasco Museum. The cathedral is closed for lunch but, yay, the museum is open.

John with Clark and Lewis in front of the Grao Vasco Museum

The museum houses extensive works by Vasco Fernandes, one of Portugal’s great Renaissance painters. We are pretty much followed around by security guards since we appear to be the only visitors. This makes surreptitious non-flash photo taking difficult. I am only able to snag one picture of a reliquary for Sarah (an art form she enjoys).


The paintings are populated by many of the Saints you see in most Renaissance works – Peter, Paul, Catherine, Sebastian, etc. The most interesting painting is in a series of works about the life of Jesus. Painted in 1502, it is of the three kings who travel to Bethlehem. The Moorish king has been replaced by an Indian from Brazil! Here only 10 years after the voyage of Columbus and a humble artist from the hinterlands of Portugal is including an Indian in his works. Discovery of the New World must have been very big news.

“We three kings of Orient are?”

With our visit to the museum completed and the cathedral still closed for lunch, we find a nearby cafe for our lunch. I try to order safely – grilled salmon with vegetables. John is more adventurous – octopus rice. I am learning that vegetables mean potatoes and a garnish of lettuce and tomatoes. The salmon is tasty but full of bones. John’s lunch consists of undercooked rice in a watery pink sauce, some tentacle slices and a bunch of shrimp looking back at him with their beady black eyes. John declares that the watery pink sauce is delicious and goes to work peeling the shrimp and sucking the heads. Yum.

Here’s looking at you, John!

After lunch we visit the cathedral. It is fortress-like on the outside and a combination of Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque in the interior. The most interesting aspect are the trusses shaped like ropes with knots.

Viseu Cathedral

Interesting knot detail

It turns out that we have a very long trip to Amarante. The roads are narrow and mountainous. We are stuck behind a truck carrying rocks who can hardly muster 5 mph up the steep hills. Finally we find our hotel. Our room is nice. There is a pretty view and, surprisingly, a billiards table on our floor.

Nice room

Nice view of Amarante

Who’s behind the eight ball?

We go down to the bar for a glass of wine. A glass of wine and some snack mix will have to suffice for dinner.
John at the bar in the Casa de Calcadas

Then I am done. I must sleep and go to bed at 7:45. Since I am writing this at 3:30 AM, it was probably not the best idea.
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