Hi all! I have my backpack already all geared up for my trip to Belgium tomorrow! Super excited! However, I see that you have been enjoying my tips about trips in Portugal that you can do without a car and it’s my duty to talk about another nice trip I did in December (2014). Let’s find out some hidden and not so hidden gems in the North of Portugal, accessible by train from Porto!
When I was living in Aveiro, it was much easier to explore the North. I always thought the Douro Valley train ride should be super beautiful so I talked about doing that with my boyfriend. On the other hand, he heard about Rota do Românico (Route of the Romanesque), a route spreading some municipalities of the North of Portugal with 58 monuments in Romanesque style (11th-12th centuries). So we thought, why not make both a weekend trip? With this in mind, we left Aveiro super early to catch the suburban train to Porto.
The fact is that Rota do Românico is best done with a car and the number of monuments is huge and quite spread out. To make planning more strict, booking a visit to the monuments requires a minimum precedence of 3 days. Even with booking, it is not guaranteed that people will appear to open the churches for you as I’ll tell you. However, there’s an app that is quite informative and has a nice map to help guide you around.
We planned to see three monuments around the village of Cete (30 Kms east from Porto). If you come from the Porto city centre, you can catch the suburban train (line of Caíde) in Porto São Bento to get out in Cete and walk around this beautiful village. If you come from other Porto suburban train line or from a regional or long distance train, the best option is to catch the train at Porto Campanhã, the main train hub. The train ride takes 30 minutes and a one-way ticket costs 2.25€. Check the Comboios de Portugal – CP website for more informations on train schedules.
We arrived to Cete at around 10:30 AM. The day was cold but sunny and the village is so charming with its cobbled houses made with granite. Our first monument in the list was the small Monastery of São Pedro de Cete. The monastery is a 2Km walk away from the train station. Fortunately we arrived there at 11AM, the time of the Sunday Mass. This made it much easier to visit, since we were not dependent on the guide to open the church for us.
When the cult celebration was over, we visited the cloister and the church calmly. It is the nicest small church I’ve been to, I like very simple churches and the austerity of the granite blocks. While the monastery seems to have existed since the 10th century, it underwent a reconstruction in the 13th and 14th centuries.
The next monument we passed by was Ermida de Nossa Senhora do Vale, a small church from the 15th-16th century, also in Cete. It’s located 1Km away from the Monastery of São Pedro de Cete. We did not schedule a visit to this place.
Next on our list was the Monastery of Paço de Sousa, one of the largest monuments of the whole region. We walked about 2.5 Kms from Cete to get there, soaking in the nice calm atmosphere. History claims that the monastery was founded by Egas Moniz, a relevant aide in the education of D. Afonso Henriques, the first King of Portugal, around the 12th century. However, having reached the monastery at the scheduled time, nobody came to open us the doors. Well, it is a nice building on the outside, but it would have been interesting to see the interiors. Maybe you’ll be in better luck when you come.
After this disappointment, we continued to walk through the beautiful countryside. We also passed through Memorial da Ermida, a small funeral monument in the village of Irivo. This was one 1.7Km walk away from Paço de Sousa. This memorial was presumably erected to mark the passage of the body of the deceased D. Mafalda, daughter of D. Sancho I (our second King of Portugal), around the area. Therefore, the memorial dates back from the 13th century.
We had already walked so much with our backpacks but we still had plenty of time! We caught the train in Irivo and decided to go out in Penafiel. The ticket from Irivo to Penafiel is 1.40€. The main interest point of Penafiel is Santuário do Sameiro (which we didn’t see!) but we were not aware of this, we just wanted to explore. Well, little did we know we had to climb 2Km from the train station to reach the city! I thought it was a very lively city and liked the old buildings that reminded me a lot of downtown Porto. Next time I come back I’ll take a bit more time there. Here are a few pictures!
As you can see the sun was setting and it was time to catch our regional train to Peso da Régua to stay there for the night, so that next day we could make the Douro Valley route really early. The Douro Valley post will come later in the week instead of the usual PhD related post. You can imagine how tired we were after all this walking. By my records, we walked almost 12 Kms! But I love walking and exploring villages, so it’s a good kind of tired. You can consult all the informations about the monuments we visited and all the others that integrate the route on the Rota do Românico webpage.
Did you ever hear about Rota do Românico (Romanesque Route)? Will you visit next time you are around the Porto area?
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