Just call me "Ice-cube"!

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Flag of Portugal  , Beiras,
Sunday, July 4, 2010

Our planned itinerary today had two stops: Belmonte and Viseu.  Lucky for us, we decided on a detour and were directed to another which made for a wonderful day.  We left Marvao around our usual 8ish to take full advantage of the "cool weather" - during the day it has been getting upwards of 40 degrees celsius.  Our guide book suggested visiting Belmonte and possibly afterwards going to the town of Sabugal.  As we were traveling down the freeway and before arriving to the Belmonte exit, there was an exit for Sabugal, so off we went.  The drive was quite nice thru windy country roads but it took a bit of time and we were starting to get nervous but we finally made it.  

As we approached the town, it reminded me of coming to St. Paul de Vence in the south of France.  A town perched on a hilltop with a castle at the center surrounded by defensive walls.  It was a very cute little town with its very, very steep an narrow cobblestone streets.  It is a good thing we are driving a small car!!  We managed to find our way to the top of the village and parked the car right in front of the castle and in the shade!!   Since it was Sunday, the visit was free - what a deal!  There is nothing there but the battlements - the interior has been converted to a theatre with a very simple stage.  I was able however to climb up to the top of the keep for a wonderful view of the village and surrounding countryside.  Going up was not so bad but I must admit I was not too keen on coming down as some of the stairs were hanging from the tower wall into the air!!  My fear of heights is getting worse and worse - but anything (almost) for a good photo, right!!

The attendant at the castle of Sabugal told us to visit the town of Sortelha as it is a typical portuguese village.  I had seen the signs along the way so we went there as it was on the way back to the freeway and Belmonte - our original destination.  Boy was it worth the detour and should not be missed by anyone coming to this area.  The village, like so many others, is perched on a hilltop and surrounded by walls.  This one was really picturesque and the car barely fir thru the city gates!!!  There were so few people there is was awesome.  The houses are so small, often built right into the rock with the castle hanging from the edge of the cliff.  Such a cute, cute town.  I could picture myself living there, running a small B&B for discerning travelers.  I am so glad we came here.

On the way down (literally), we talked about ways to run and market such an establishment and drove by a vey large abandoned castle.  The outside walls appeared to be in very good condition but the inside was non-existent so we dreamed about turning that into a hotel!!  Someday maybe.  We finally made it to Belmonte and had we come here directly and not made our detours, the day would have been very disappointing.  Yes, there is a castle there but it is not worth the stop in my opinion.  Nothing else in the city was noticeable - I would bypass this city on your itinerary.

On the drive to Viseu, I got so tired and Mom was asleep that I had to pull over for a little nap.  No shade around so it was a hot nap but a necessary one.  Like I said, it has been so hot that I can fully understand the reason for the siesta taking place in Portugal and Spain.  It is just too hot in the middle of the afternoon.  Anyway, we got back on the road and arrived at our hotel in Viseu with little problems.

It was about 40 degrees when we arrived in Viseu so Mom decided to stay put while I went out and discovered the city.  Before I left, we went to the grocery store to stock up for our dinner and picnic items.  I dropped Mom off at the hotel upon our return and headed out on foot towards the historical part of Viseu.  Luckily it was very close to our hotel so it was not too bad.  The Cathedral or Se in portuguese was quite large and the place in front of it is really nice except for the cars parked right in the middle!!!  I walked around town back towards the hotel stopping here and there for some photo opportunities.

When I returned, Mom and I went to the mall in search of a little relief from the heat.  We found it at the Minus 5 bar (actually we went there on purpose)!!  It is an expensive adventure but why not - go have a drink where EVERYTHING is made of glacier ice from the glass, counter, stools, chairs, windows and chandeliers!!  We donned some big parkas and gloves and in we went.  Neither of us really thought it was that cold in there but we had fun anyway.  There are only 5 of these in the world and all the others are in Australia or New Zealand.
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