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2nd June, 2015

Leixoes, Portugal

After a pleasant, but rather chilly week up in Norway, it was in quite the opposite direction that we headed when we departed Dover on May 30th. We are off to the Med, and as far as Venice on an almost four week adventure, but first there was, within thirty minutes of leaving the quay, the absolute delight of seeing two Spitfires performing their aerial high jinks just for us. A very magic moment.

The passage south westwards, around Ushant and through the Biscay was in gradually clearing skies and comfortable seas. By daylight of the third morning the port for Porto, Leixoes, was close on the port bow. The sky was crystal clear and the rising sun promised a warm day for those who ventured into the city or further afield. Having been into Porto on several previous occasions Mrs R and I joined the morning excursion to Guimara҄es, one of the country’s most historic cities and where the first king of Portugal was born. Our guide, Virginia, was both knowledgeable and not without humour, she was to give us excellent explanations for what we were seeing.

The group spent an hour or so in the Palace of the Dukes, a splendid and imposing 15th century building overlooking the city and once occupied by the last dictator, Salazar. The main rooms, full of tapestries, paintings and other antiques, surrounded the central courtyard on three levels. On the top floors could be seen great vaulted wooden ceilings and a large chapel had its own magnificent entrance. Apparently there were nineteen tall brick chimneys; we certainly passed many imposing granite fireplaces during our relaxed stroll.

Once the Palace had been ‘done’ there was a minor trek down into the old city, along narrow cobblestone streets which passed many elegant medieval buildings and a beckoning courtyard sheltered behind wrought iron gates. All the houses seemed to have ornate wooden or cast iron balconies, many of which were decorated with summer flowers, a very pretty sight. We stopped for a coffee in the relatively small, but very charming central square, Largo da Oliveira. Some free time necessitated a short burst of window shopping and I am now quite aware that Mrs R would have just loved to have had a little more time.

Back in time for lunch, I had the opportunity of taking a closer look at ‘Mathosinhos’, an old narrow gauge locomotive dating back from the late 1800’s, used on a local branch line and now a museum piece in the passenger hall along with the tiniest of carriages. Payback for having to wait around outside the shops.

Captain Philip Rentell

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