Thursday, February 2, 2023

Valenca offers charms of Portuguese village near Spanish border

Valenca, in the far north of Portugal, offers a relaxing, artistic place to visit for a few days.
Sturdy, stunning buildings date back to the 13th Century, upgraded in the 17th Century.

HISTORY, COLOR, MONUMENTS, SHOPS, CHURCHES, GRACIOUS PEOPLE AND TASTY FARE MARK VISIT TO PORTUGAL'S   NORTH

Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie" Meyers above Valenca. 
STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

VALENCA IS about as far north in Portugal that a traveler can go. Like many European towns, it was inhabited more than 300,000 years ago by the homo heidelbergensis, the first early humans to survive in colder climate.

Its more recent history is still impressive, dating back centuries.

Monuments on many
corners tell of
Valenca's history.

Among the many who occupied Portugal, the Romans stand out because they occupied the land for more than 700 years, from the 3rd century BC to the 4th century AD.  As they did wherever they explored, these enterprising travelers built cities, established civil government, fished and farmed the land, and connected settlements with a network of roads. In Portugal, they built above the Minho River which they crossed while traveling from Brago to Tui on the Spanish side, as early as the second century BC. 
Colorful fabrics are sold in Valenca's main streets
and back roads -- aprons to tea towels and throws
.

AS ONE of the oldest countries in Europe, Portugal boasts a colorful history. Besides the Roman Empire, it was home to Iberian tribes, Celtic peoples, Germanic kingdoms, Muslim invaders and the consequent Christian Reconquista, and finally,  the Exploration of the World. Portugal's Jewish community has a proud cultural and religious legacy dating back to antiquity.

WE FOUND colorful Valenca a metaphor for Portugal itself. Beautiful streets and monuments, clean and welcoming parks and gardens, polite and gracious people, tasty simple fare and good local beer and wine. .

 Valenca is a little known stop to
foreigners but has a proud history.

The town is often confused with Valencia, Spain, by Americans and others outside Europe. That much larger Spanish city, however, is nine hours or 950 kilometers to the southeast.

WE EXPLORED Valenca from our ship, docked at the nearby port of Vigo in Spain. We bought a tour package, but if one wants to go explore on one's own, it's only a $14 bus trip. Or take a train for a few dollars more.

Remnants of Valenca's strong
defense remain, as Keller
illustrates with a canon.


The streets of Valenca hold small squares, churches and
mansions which held off invaders, even to the 19th Century.


The short scenic drive makes it one of the few places in Europe where cruise passengers can easily visit two countries in a half-hour's time.





THE MINHO River flows 210 miles through the northwestern extent of Spain, and marks Spain's border with Portugal for part of that distance. This border has been contentious for thousands of years, and today it's difficult to walk in this area without bumping into a star fort, a place where the enemy can be fired upon the entire length of the fortress wall, to the far bastion. This makes it difficult for attackers to find shelter outside the fort walls and from above, looks like points of a star.

A Frida Kahlo pillow for a sister in Montana was
a happy purchase from these Valenca artists.

 
ONCE THE ROMANS left the area, the mix of cultures that became modern Europe galloped in: Arabs to Vikings were part of the mix -- people escaping persecution or poverty, or just looking for new horizons.

Portuguese King Sancho I (1154-1211) earned the sobriquet "The Populator" by bringing Christians to northern Portugal in the 12th century. This squeezed out the aggressive Moors, who had conquered virtually all of the Iberian Peninsula by the 8th century.
THE MOORS left beautiful architecture -- including exquisite tiles and mosaics -- and shaped the region's religion, cuisine, music and language. All this can be felt in Valenca -- though not to the degree of more southerly towns. We found Valenca a lovely place with some of the most pleasant people we've met on the road.

Get ready for your close up soon when we venture to Paramount
Studios in Los Angeles, through its famous gates and onto the lots.

UP NEXT: 
We're taking readers on a star-studded tour of Paramount Studios so get ready for your close-up. The studio has produced some of the most famous films -- from "Forest Gump" to "Top Gun" and many time honored classics. Then on to Santa Barbara's beautiful Maritime Museum. And more food, glorious food as we take a bite of Mexican cuisine -- best seafood around -- with "AvoCabo Food Tours." Meanwhile, we urge readers to follow their dreams -- remembering to explore, learn and live. Please share the link: www.whereiscookie.com




3 comments:

  1. We love small villages and Valenca looks lovely. Appreciate the tips.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I thought at first, a typo! Do they mean Valencia? I didn't know of this lovely place in Portugal, Valenca. So interesting.

    ReplyDelete