Between the Rivers Lima and Minho in the north of Portugal.

We took the train north of Porto to the city of Viana do Castelo. Viana do Castelo is a beautiful city situated on the Atlantic coast at the mouth of the River Lima. The area is known for fishing and for the jewelry and costumes that are traditionally made and worn in this region. The city certainly lived up to the reputation! The old center was a rabbit warren of narrow streets and lovely old buildings, the river front and the beaches gave beautiful water views and the Santa Luzia mountains frame the area.

The sun, and a rainbow, over the Praça da Republica. The city was decorating for the Natal (Christmas) Holidays but there were still plenty of flowers blooming.
Another square and a statue honoring someone from the city’s past. Look, I know you follow this blog for the photos and not for the detailed information!
Some of the lovely buildings facing the park and the river. The tiles are used in many places in Portugal, and especially along the coast as they provide good protection from the elements.
The park along the river.
One of the “must see” places in Viana is the Sanctuary of Santa Luzia, which presides over the city atop the hill. There are choices on how to get there, one choice is the steps. According to the Fitbit fitness tracker, it was about 46 flights of steps to get to the top of the hill.
Another options that is usually available is the Funicular, which also advertises great views on the way up and down. Alas, it was being serviced while we were in town, so we can save this option for a future visit.
The day was a bit cloudy with intermittent rain, but as we got to the top, the sun came out and highlighted the beauty of the church.
The Sanctuary of the church had some beautiful windows and stonework. Like many churches in Portugal, the interiors have lots of flourish and statuary.
The stairs to the top of the hill are not the end of the climb. You can also climb to the top of the church! It starts out with regular steps and then you get to some VERY NARROW and windy circular stairs. Dan had his backpack with him, and he took it off and carried it because stairs were so narrow.
Once you complete the climb, you are rewarded with some amazing views! This is looking west from the top of the church over part of the city and the Atlantic coast.
An interesting statue on the grounds. The church sits in a large park that includes the ruins of a Roman fortification. The ruins were not open when we wandered by, so we have another item for a future visit.

There was a fair amount of rain during our visit, so we had incentive to check out a museum or two. The town boasts a Costume Museum that shows the various clothing traditionally worn by people in the Minho region. It also shows the methods for creating the cloth. This region appears to have a history of providing textiles in Portugal.

Preparing yarn for the weaving of cloth.
Working costumes for various types of labor. The straw garment is very similar to those used in the Douro valley to keep farm laborers warm and dry during the region’s rainy winters.
The Festival Costumes for women are usually red and include ornately embellished aprons and pockets worn over patterned skirts, and then the bright scarves and bodices are added. The stockings are knit, often with a pattern and paired with a clog. Young women would weave the fabric with designs ranging from geometric patterns to elaborate florals. The pockets, which are tied around the waist and just peek out from behind the aprons, are worked with colorful thread and shiny beadwork.
The region is also known for distinctive gold jewelry. Even today, the jewelry stores display pieces with the distinctive patterns and filigrees. Necklaces and lacy dangling earrings are as much a part of the costume as the apron and fancy pockets.
The jewelry ranges from the large and fancy to the more delicate.

Given the position of the city on the coast and close to the northern border with Spain, there are forts!

The main fort in Viana do Castelo is near the mouth of the river and is good sized. It also still has a moat filled with water! The buildings inside the wall are currently in use, it looks like a school for tourism if our translation of some of the signs is correct.
They may no longer put guards in the lookouts, but they are still useful for checking out the surroundings.

From Viana we headed north one day to check out the border with Spain in Valenca. A nice train ride along the Atlantic coast and the River Minho gets you to this nice city.

A bridge across the River Minho that has great views and a nice set up for pedestrians. This area is part of a Caminho de Santiago Portugal, so there are lots of folks making the walk that starts in Lisbon and takes you up in to Spain. We have been in many cities that have portions of the trail.
The border marker in the middle of the bridge – and the river.
Valenca is home to the most expansive fort built in Portugal, and it is impressive. The walls still “protect” a vibrant community inside. We approached from the north, or river, side of the fortress and were, frankly, unprepared for how big this place is!
Looking out over just one small area of the fortifications.
One of several churches inside the walls. This one is being restored and you can see how elaborate the embellishments are since there are fewer distractions.
The artwork seems a bit graphic about the fate expected for some!
Another view of the fortifications, looking back in toward the fort and the community inside the walls.

Back in Viana do Castelo, we stayed in the Flag Design Hotel in the old part of the city. After we checked in we were treated to a quick tour and some history of part of the building. Originally the town villa of an influential and important family, there was a nicely tiled entry foyer that took you to a winding stair that took visitors up to the reception rooms on the first floor.

The area was lit by a skylight three stories above. The sky lights here are often round or oval with some decorative metal work visible from the outside and I was very excited to be able to see how one looks from the inside finally! This one, especially, did not disappoint.
Looking down from the third floor. The stairs only go to the “public receiving rooms” on the first floor, there are other stairs to get to the upper floors.
The skylights can be clear glass, but it is not unusual for there to be stained glass. These had some nice color. Also, the detail on the ceiling show just how wealthy and important this family portrayed itself to be. Not casting aspersions or anything, but we weren’t able to find out too many details about them, so we have to base our impressions on what the house was like.
It is my blog, so I can put up as many photos of the skylights as I want. I have been intrigued by these on every visit to Portugal and often commented that it would be nice to see what they are like from the inside, so this hotel gets extra credit points for giving me the opportunity to see such a nice one!

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