Postcard: Off the Beaten Track in Northern Portugal

Postcard: Off the Beaten Track in Northern Portugal

This is a small report about a trip to Northern Portugal we both took late last year. We live in southern Galicia and had heard that you can purchase good quality cloth in Portugal. In particular we had heard good things about the market in Valença. This was essentially a business trip, with a bit of fun tacked on.

This ancient fortified city is on the opposite side of the border to Tui, Spain. The boundary between the two countries at the point is formed by the Rio Minho (Miño in Spanish).

The market is held every Wednesday. The drive between our house and the city only takes a few hours all on Autovias and N roads.

To be honest we found very little in the way of accommodation in Valença. There is the Pousada Valença do Minho, which was too expensive for this trip. It is Portugal’s version of a Spanish Paradore. We basically had a choice of the Hotel Lara, or as we selected the Hotel Valença do Minho. It has to be said it is not a hotel with any … shall we say … style. We chose it for location as it was very near to the market and we thought we would need to carry back lots of baggage. But the price was very good. The staff were friendly and helpful. The accommodation was clean although worn in a few areas. For something with a bit more style and still a reasonable price maybe one should look at the Hotel Lara. However it is located on a very busy road. We did not see inside the hotel.

After arriving and booking in, we first decided to see what the near by coast was like. And to be honest nothing that special. The road follows the Rio Minho where you can find plenty of beaches. The drive along this road was something to be experienced. The Portuguese have one of the worse road death statistics in Europe, I can now understand why.

Valença old town

The walled city is quite small and should take only about half a day to take in the sights. The city goes very quite when the tourist leave. The views back towards Spain are very nice. Below and crossing the Miño/Mihno you can see the bridge the Gustave Eiffel is said to have designed.

The evening meal was taken in the hotel. It was good quality but it has to be said nothing that special to note. Except that the Portuguese like to serve every meal with chips (French fries) and rice.

Next Morning Off to Market

It is a huge place. Location Avenida Sá Carneiro. There is a large free car park in the field between the market and the Autostrada A-3. If you look at Google maps you can see the car tracks in the grass.

The market really sells everything, from animals, kitchen equipment, food, clothes right through to linen. The market is open from round about 10, although some stallholders were still setting up around 11ish, until about 5:00.

On this visit we were unlucky in purchasing our tablecloths, as no one could guarantee us they could bring a large quantity for us to purchase. Still we managed to find one or two things that are useful around the house.

On the Way Back Home

We took the “back road” along the Minho. Stopping at places like Lapela; this is a small village with many old buildings.

The main building that is of interest to the visitor is the defensive tower, built on the edges of the river. The tower is the remains of a fort, which was demolished around 1706. The stones where use in the reconstruction of the main square in nearby Monção. This is an attractive old town, that is well off the main tourist track. It has a feria (market) every Thursday. Maybe if you time your journey right you can visit the market in Valença and move on the next day to this one.

After driving along the N202 and N301 we crossed into Spain at small place called São Gregorio/Ponte Barxas. There are many side roads one can explore, head in an eastwardly direction; most of these head towards the river banks of the Minho. Just be adventurous!

Once in Spain you can head towards Ribadavia or Ourense.

As a Further Suggestion

From Valença you could head across the border straight into Galicia, through the coastal area known as the Rias Baixas. Places like Tui, Vigo Cangas and Santiago de Compostela spring to mind.

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