Ponte de Lima and Monastery of St. John d’Arga: Paulo’s Portugal (part two)

An exploration of the Norte Region of Portugal with a local

Monastery de St. John de Arga, an 8th century monastery in the mountains outside of Viana do Castelo
The ancient Monastery of St. John d’Arga, nestled in the mountains outside of Viana do Castelo


In our last post, I talked about touring Viana do Castelo with Paulo.  The remainder of our visit with our friend  was spent exploring the stunning countryside around his hometown.  We went to an ancient village and then to an even older monastery tucked away in a forest.  We also drove a winding road through the mountains.  The next day, Paulo drove us from Viana do Castelo to Santiago de Compostela, Spain, where we would catch a bus to Madrid for our flight back to the U.S.  On the way to Santiago, he took us on a meandering path up the Spanish coastline, showing us some of his favorite Atlantic Coast beaches.

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Porto, Portugal: Learning about port wine

Wooden barrels containing Sandeman Port


We love “how-it’s-made” tours, especially when the trip includes free samples of, say, alcohol.  We’ve taken a bourbon tour in Kentucky and craft beer and whiskey distillery tours in Seattle, and we’ve learned the insider info on making hard cider in Virginia.  It’s an enlightening way to increase your knowledge about the history and production of your favorite products while also getting the hands-on experience of trying the goods.

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One day in Porto, Portugal

The Rio Douro, with the Atlantic Ocean beyond; photo taken in Vila Nova de Gaia (across the river from Porto), where we stayed.


Everybody, and I do mean everybody, that we met who had been to Porto said that we must visit the city.  People raved about it.  It was highly recommended for its food, culture, beauty, and friendly people, so we made Porto our first stop in Portugal.  Unfortunately, we only had a day to spend there, but that didn’t keep us from experiencing as much of the city as possible.

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Random facts about Portugal

Map of Europe, with Portugal and Spain highlighted in red. Source: CIA World Fact Book maps


The last leg of our European trip was to Portugal.  We had a promise from our Portuguese friend Paulo that if we visited he would show us around, so we took him up on it.  First we visited Portugal’s second largest city, Porto, and after spending a few days there, Paulo picked us up and took us to Viano do Castelo, the town where he had been born and raised and still lived.

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