Essex hurricaine

Portugal, Port and a Virgin or two

18th August 2012
Vigo Marina


Port in Portugal and a Virgin or two.


Sailing from Spain to Portugal

After several failed attempts we managed to escape “Vigo in Spain before we needed liver transplants from all the drink were were forced to have. Our next stop was “Bayona”, a couple of hours down the Ria where we anchored overnight ready for an early start. This time we managed to get a good night sleep and even woke up with the boat still in the same place.

We raised the anchor for the last time in Northern Spain with a certain amount of sorrow. We were leaving behind many friends and magical memories of Galicia to set off for Portugal and new adventures.


Crossing from Spain to Portugal

It wasn’t long before our chart plotter told us we were on the border which meant hauling down the Spanish courtesy flag and replacing it with that of Portugal’s.  There was no barbed wire, passport control, or salivating Alsatian dogs with machine guns. There wasn’t  even a “Welcome to Portugal, please sail carefully” sign.  One second we were in Spain, the next Portugal.


Viana do Castelo, Portugal

Our first stop in Portugal was in Viana do Castelo.  We stayed on a waiting pontoon in the river as there was not enough water in the marina to keep us afloat. I had never heard of this place before but many years ago it was a big trading port with the UK. They used to swap wine for fishing nets. I know which I would rather have and you cannot catch fish with it unless you club them over the head with the bottle. Then again, drinking some of the local wine makes you feel as if you have been hit over the head.


Walk this way

Viana do Castelo, Portugal

Viana do Castelo, Portugal

At the top of a big hill overlooking the town is a monument. It is a long, long walk up thousands of steps so we readied our back packs, took a deep breath and caught the Vernacular railway up. Come on, we are not so stupid as to walk. We did however walk down and that was enough to bring about some leg twitching.

Portugal was so different from Spain and many of the locals spoke English well. A lot of the television programs are in English. Whilst we were there we all went to the pictures which again were in English. The only difference was that half way through the film they had a ten minute break so you could get more refreshments or go outside for a cigarette.

After a couple of days we moved on and sailed the relatively short distance to Pova de Varzim. The marina is very cheap and out of the main town where the Portuguese come to holiday.

As soon as we arrived we spotted several familiar faces we had made friends with in different places on our journey. We were surprised and happy to see Martyn and Jane from “Gemini”, who we spent time with in “Muxia and “Muros”. They are kindred spirits and wonderful friends.


Pova de Varzim is a Velcro port

There is a small British enclave here in Pova de Varzim which seems to be led by Brian, a really special man who came in seven years ago to get fuel and never left.  He didn’t even get his fuel.

Sunday night is the ritual barbecue night for anyone who wants to come. It is very well attended by all nationalities with far too many beers being drunk.  Tuesday night is hosted by a Portuguese family in their café where they cook gorgeous local food accompanied by wine. It is always oversubscribed with the bill coming in at a whopping eight pounds. It is also another sore head and stagger home night.

Wednesdays the marina takes us to a large shopping mall in the mini bus where we can stock up on beer, sorry, provisions. They do charge a euro for the privilege but this is spent on food for a number of stray dogs that the marina workers have taken in and look after.

In between times we try to get out but find ourselves chatting to others from every imaginable country and by the end of the day we might have got as far as the end of the pontoon.


Port in Porto, Portugal

Port wine in Porto, Portugal

Port wine transported by boat

From Pova de Varzim we took the metro (local train) with Martyn and Jane into Porto, Portugal’s second city. We soon understood why people rave about its beauty. Looking out onto the river I doubt the view has changed much for a century or two. We even did the tourist thing and took the train looking thing, “The Wally Trolley” to so some sightseeing around the city.The advantage to using the Wally Trolley was that they gave us free tickets to the Port houses which also meant we could have free tasting on the Port wine.

I am not sure how we managed it but we also found ourselves visiting not one but two of the many Port houses where they mature and export it. I don’t think that the offer of three free glasses in each place affected our decision to go there in any way. Each of the Port Houses, of which there are many, have continual tours in the cellars where they will tell you why there Port is so special. All I knew was that I was amongst thousands of barrels of alcohol. We also got to try all types of Port including the very expensive vintage Port.


Virgins and flowers

Angelina at Povoa de Varzim festival

Fiesta in Pova de Varzim

Whilst in Pova de Varzim they held one of the many Fiestas’ that dominate the calendars in Portugal. This one was to the ascension of the Virgin Mary. I don’t know why but old Virgin Mary seems to have got around a bit as we have come across her all down Spain and Portugal.

Besides the usual stun grenades going off every hour they had a proper firework display, lit the church up and had bands playing all weekend.  Overnight the town’s people decorated the streets with flowers to mark the route of a procession that went on for several hours. It must have taken millions of petals laid out in specific patterns to cover the main street. What was so impressive was that the locals had stayed up all night to do it. During the day they would keep the petals fresh in the hot sun by watering them. It was a tapestry of colour and dedication. There were statues to the Virgin Mary’s everywhere you looked and the locals also hung out all their bedding for some reason. The colour and sound was amazing.

The virgin Mary icon in Portugal

Virgin Mary icon in Pova de Varzim

All the icons of the Virgin Mary and many more were paraded through the streets where they walked over the petals. Each Icon needed at least 10 strong men to carry it. When they needed a rest, which was quiet often, they would each put a pole they carried underneath the icon to support the weight. Many of the local girls were dressed as the Virgin Mary and formed part of the parade.

Being a good catholic country the Portuguese had no problems finding an abundance of Virgins. I wonder why Essex doesn’t have the same sort of festival.

Talking of Essex I recently see they put out and appeal for help after a Hurricane hit.



You may have heard of yesterday’s storm damage in the UK which affected many Essex properties. Locally it was referred to as Hurricane Shazza and hit Essex in the early hours of Friday with its epicentre in Basildon. Victims were seen wandering around aimlessly, muttering “Faaackinell”. The hurricane decimated the area, causing approximately £30 worth of damage. Several priceless collections of mementos from Majorca and the Costa Del Sol were damaged beyond repair. Three areas of historic burnt out cars were disturbed and many locals were woken well before their benefit giros arrived.

One resident – Tracy Sharon Smith, a 15-year-old mother of 5, said, “It was such a shock. My little Chardonnay-Mercedes came running into my bedroom crying. My youngest two, Tyler-Morgan and Victoria-Storm, slept through it all. I was still shaking when I was skinning up and watching Trisha the next morning.

The British Red Cross has so far managed to ship 4,000 crates of Sunny Delight to the Essex area to help the stricken locals. Rescue workers are still searching through the rubble and have found large quantities of personal belongings, including benefit books, jewellery from Elizabeth Duke at Argos and Bone China from Poundstretcher.


How can you help?

This appeal is to raise money for food and clothing parcels for those unfortunate enough to be caught up in the Essex disaster.

Clothing is most sought after – items most needed include: Fila or Burberry baseball caps, Kappa tracksuit tops (his and hers), Shell suits (female), White sport socks, Rockport boots. Any other items usually sold in Primark.

Food parcels may be harder to come by, but are needed all the same. Required foodstuffs include: Microwave meals, Tins of baked beans, Ice cream, Cans of Colt 45 or Special Brew.


Breaking news

Rescue workers found a Essex girl in the rubble smothered in raspberry alco-pop.

Where are you bleeding from?‘ they asked

ROMFORD” said the girl. “Woss that gotta do wiv you“?

How many fingers have I got up” said he paramedic

OMG” said the girl, “I’m paralysed from the waist down

So, please help the people of Essex because believe me they really need some help. If you cannot manage to help then pop across to Portugal for a few glasses of free Port and a virgin or two.



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