Surviving without a GPS in the villages of Portugal’s Centro Region

Piodão

I’ve been planning an unplugged weekend for a while and I thought a visit to a few remote villages would be the perfect opportunity to go without internet for a bit.

It was easier said than done, while I managed to survive without checking any social media for 48 hours it was getting lost in a pitch-black road that ultimately lead me to turn on my GPS. That, and my dad’s sudden accusations that we weren’t helping him find anything. Funny thing was we were right in front of our lodging when I finally gave in and checked my phone.

Up until then we were getting around the old-school way, with directions on a piece of paper and by asking people on the streets. Despite the lack of arrows in a few places we actually did alright!

On the way…

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It was a foggy day when we left Lisbon on Saturday morning. The sun was shining behind the clouds and a few drops of rain started falling which uncovered a beautiful rainbow on my side of the window.

As we drove farther and farther away from the capital, the scenery slowly changed from modern buildings to colorful trees, stone houses and mountain peaks.

We stopped at a few gas stations on the way to stock up on some food and to stretch our legs before we continue driving to Viseu.

One of my mom’s friends was heading there to visit her mom and my dad offered to give her a ride, since it wasn’t too far off our planned route.

Gouveia/Folgosinho

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Folgosinho

I wrote down a few places that I wanted to go on this road trip, but Gouveia was not one of them. So when my dad asked for restaurant recommendations in the area, an answer that I could quickly give him by researching it on my phone I simply said: “I don’t know.”

That didn’t stop him from reaching for his laptop and doing the research himself. After all we did need to eat eventually…

My parents had recently watched a TV show that mentioned a restaurant in Folgosinho, a small village in Gouveia, and they were very keen on going there. They couldn’t remember the name, but that’s what the internet is for, simply google “Restaurant in Folgosinho” and the first thing that comes up is “Albertino”.

When the signs for Albertino were finally within our reach everyone knew we were in the right place.

It was 2pm and the restaurant was heaving with people! Luckily my dad had booked us a table so we didn’t have to wait to feed our empty stomachs. We climbed up 3 sets of stairs, each one with its own crowd until we finally reached our table on the 4th floor of the restaurant!

Usually I would read a few reviews about a restaurant before giving it a go. This time I knew nothing about Albertino so I didn’t have any expectations when the first part of our seven-course meal was served.

We started off with a delicious sheep cheese, followed by some Portuguese sausages. Then a few traditional dishes came in, including Feijoada de Javali (a sort of bean stew with wild boar), Arroz de Cabidela (rabbit and rice cooked in its own blood – definitely not my favorite), veal with carrot rice, lamb with potatoes and suckling pig with slices of orange.

Portion after portion a dish would be placed on our table and in a matter of minutes it would vanish. I don’t know how I had room for dessert, but I couldn’t refuse a Leite de Creme or as the French would say a “Crème Brûlée”. This last one wasn’t as good as I expected it to be, but overall we had a scrumptious feast!

Of course this meant we didn’t have to worry about dinner, meal wise we were set for the day and night.

Folgosinho

We walked down the stairs and the lady asked us if we would like to have coffee on the counter or on a couch. The latter sounded much more appealing, so she went out of the restaurant and took us to a local bar called Hins. The coffee was okay but the free fruity liquors were definitely the cherry on top of this lengthy meal!

Before heading to the restaurant, we actually stopped in Gouveia and while my dad asked for directions I got out of the car to capture the buildings on the edge of a hill. As we drove past the city I saw beautiful churches decorated with blue and white tiles and houses swallowed by climbing plants. It was the Autumn red plants that lead us to our next stop of the road trip…

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Gouveia

Torrozelo

Torre Torrozelo

Torrozelo

Even though it was a bit of a detour from Viseu, I made my dad turn around to see a flowery tower that I had spotted on our way to Folgosinho. It was probably one of the weekend’s most beautiful sights!

Next to the tower there were a few lonely houses worth capturing that reminded me of Sejkko’s instagram feed.

On our way to Viseu we drove by dreamy mansions, vineyards and trees loaded with chestnuts ready to be picked for St.Martin’s Day. I wanted to stop in every village and explore its narrow streets but it was getting dark and we still had a lot to see the next day.

After dropping my mom’s friend in Viseu we headed to Oliveira do Hospital, where we booked our stay for the night.

Oliveira do Hospital

Oliveira do Hospital

When we finally found the place, not thanks to my GPS skills, I realized that my dad had been driving for more than 10 hours! And yes we did stop in a few places to relax and get some caffeine in our system, but it must have been really tiresome for him!

I thought I would recommend a great place to stay for anyone looking to visit these villages, but I was surprised the next morning when my dad told me the lady tried to rip us off!

The only thing we got to see in Oliveira do Hospital besides our room was the closest Continente where we got our breakfast, but I hope I can come back again for a proper tour.

Piodão

Piodão

Like many of my road trip plans there is always a main feature! I came across Piodão when I was researching for our last road trip to Arouca and I kept telling my dad how much I wanted to visit. Soon after I mentioned it, he sent me an email with a set date and our accommodation details.

After we left Oliveira do Hospital we started following the arrows to Piodão. We drove up and down a few winding roads before we spotted this small village tucked away between the hills of the Açor mountain.

Most of the houses are made of schist, a type of stone abundant in this region. From a distance it looks like a miniature gray village, but as soon as you get closer you start noticing different shades of blue paint covering the houses’ windows and doors. Legend says this was the only color available in the village’s shop at the time! Today the shops are more devoted to tourists, offering small souvenirs and local liquors.

Piodão

PiodãoPiodão

We got off the car and the first thing I captured was Piodão’s church, the only building that looks like it’s out of place due to it’s bright white color and it’s unusual shape. It looked straight out of a fairytale!

I went looking for my dad and he was sitting by the corner of a restaurant eating a massive plate of black pudding sausage. Nick and I joined in and ordered a galão to warm us up. It was the first time this year that my hands were freezing enough to wear gloves!

I got a small souvenir for the house, while my dad filled a bag with traditional cheeses and liquors. After our purchases, we walked up the hill to observe the houses closely. Everywhere we looked there was something worth admiring!

“This is one of the most beautiful places I’ve been in Portugal” – Nick uttered when we were driving away from Piodão. He didn’t just mean the village, he meant the whole area – the surrounding mountains, the rivers and the quaint houses.

PiodãoPiodão

Foz d’Égua

Foz d'Égua

I couldn’t recall why I had written down Foz d’Égua as a place of interest but when we got there it clicked. It was the water stream passing underneath beautiful rock bridges, the vast vegetation and this wooden rope bridge leading on to even more schist houses. The whole area looked like it could be a part of the next Hobbit’s film set.

We could see a Christian cross high above the hill but we were too tired to climb up and find out what it was. We relished the view from the bottom before heading over to the next village.

Avô

Avô

“12, 11, 10…” – my dad happily counted down the kilometers to get to Avô, a village with a name that literally means granddad in Portuguese.

Like many of these villages, the population is mostly above 70, but Avô had one thing that I was not expecting – cats, loads of cats.

We followed the steps to the castle ruins and saw a group of them passing by, from kittens to fully grown cats enjoying what was left of the sun.

Said to be built by the first King of Portugal, there is not much left of the medieval castle other than a few stone walls and a wooden door.  It does however provide a good panoramic view of the town. From here you can see a river beach on the left and a nice stone church on the right.

Avôimage

Aldeia das Dez

Aldeia das Dez

Aldeia das Dez was our last village visit before heading back to Lisbon.

We parked the car in front of a viewpoint opposite the main attraction, a red mail box and a British-look-a-like phone booth (or box as British would say). I did read the information signs and found out there was so much more worth exploring around here, but it was getting late and we still had a couple of hours of driving ahead of us.

Aldeia das Dez

Aldeia das Dez

After a couple of photos, we got back in the car, tuned in the radio and took off leaving these historical towns behind. In my head I tried to memorize all the other places we saw on the way, so I can go there one day and discover all its beauty…

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2 thoughts on “Surviving without a GPS in the villages of Portugal’s Centro Region”

  1. Que linda viagem, é das zonas de Portugal que ainda não conheço e que estou há muito tempo para ir. Cliquei assim que vi “viagem sem GPS” e pelos vistos os nossos pais são semelhantes no estilo de viagem 🙂 O meu pai acha muito estranha esta história de termos GPS, tudo o que ele precisava/precisa é um mapa das estradas e a ajuda do “chefe/amigo” que está sempre à beira da estrada. Nem o Google Maps no telemóvel ele usa! Nunca nos perdíamos…muito 😉

    1. Foi mesmo! Há sítios que só dá mesmo para ir de carro, especialmente Piodão, mas valeu bem a pena. Ahah o meu pai tem dias, de vez em quando perde-se e pede para eu ver no telemóvel o caminho, mas sim nunca falta o mapa!

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