CELEBRATING OUR 8 YEAR WEDDING ANNIVERSARY: TRILHO DAS LEVADAS HIKING TRAIL (CASTRO DAIRE PR7 CDR)
To celebrate our 8 year wedding anniversary I planned an awesome day trip to Castro Daire. We embarked on our first hike of 2023, the wonderful PR7 CDR Trilho das Levadas hiking trail. I am very indecisive and couldn’t decide what to do for our celebratory day trip. Initially I was going to plan an adventure to one of the historical Portuguese villages but in the end nature and forest therapy won my heart. We haven’t embarked on a hike yet this year and after all the DIY painting of our garden gates and railings, I just needed to breathe in some fresh mountain air instead of potent fumes. I love hiking in Portugal as it always rejuvenates and increases my happiness. It is definitely one of the great pleasures of my life. Spring is my favourite season for hiking because it’s not too hot and everything is bursting into life with bright vivid coloured flowers and sweet scents. I love the pastel pink and white cherry blossom that is everywhere at this time of year and the sweet aroma of flowers, plants, herbs and wild meadows below the clear blue skies. Colours are smiles of nature. All the animals we stumble across are just too cute for words, especially the Spring lambs.
Castro Daire is a 1 hr 20 min drive from our casa and 112 km each way. It’s a lovely drive and we passed through many small villages. At one point we got stuck behind a shepherd herding goats and donkeys. We also saw a lot of locals leaving church mass carrying huge bouquets of palm leaves. They are hung on front doors along with crosses to mark Palm Sunday and the start of the special Easter holy week. We have already completed the PR8 CDR and loved it so are familiar with the beautiful scenery and magical mountains. The Magic Mountains encompass the mountain range of Freita, Arada and Arestal, belonging to the Gralheira massif, and the Mountain of Montemuro. They extend over 80 parishes spread over 7 municipalities: Arouca, Castelo de Paiva, Castro Daire, Cinfães, São Pedro do Sul, Sever do Vouga and Vale de Cambra. These magical mountains certainly put a spell on me. I am so in love with the tranquil silence and breathtaking scenery, very idyllic and revitalising for the soul.
Baloiço de Pendilhe
GPS: 40.892124, -7.842015
First we visited Baloiço de Pendilhe which is a stunning scenic swing located just a few km from the start of the trail. When I saw photos of this place, I just had to visit as it’s such a cute and quirky place and I love everything weird and wonderful. Penhilde is a Parish located in Lugar da Raposa, Vila Nova de Paiva, Viseu. What an awesome place, we had a whole heap of fun. As well as the main attraction of scenic swing there is a romantic floral decorated heart with seating and sweeping panoramic views. I loved the Porta do Por do Sol (Sunset Door) and Ponte de Lima (Tiny Bridge) adorned with brightly rainbow coloured stones with messages from the heart and love quotes. I always translate the messages as most are heartfelt but some are more than a bit weird and wonderful (ha ha). All the quaint additions made from recycled materials were adorable: Motorbike made from recycled tyres, wheelbarrow, wooden train and animals, bicycle and flower art installation made from hubcaps. Of course crazy Helena had to climb aboard everything that I could get my leg over. The wooden reindeer was a little unstable, a bit like me (ha ha).
I’ve never laughed so much in my life. What can I say I have a hilarious hubby, soulmates forever. It was a stunning day with really high temperature but the location is very high up in altitude so it was windy as hell, hence my crazy hair in a lot of the photos. I made a semi-effort and wore a frock and sandals to the swing as I wanted some nice photos on our wedding anniversary and not just me in hiking clothing covered in sweat and mud. I’m a veteran of scenic swings now (a professional swinger!) so came prepared and dressed for mountain breeze and Marilyn Monroe skirt blown over my head moments (ha ha). I wore shorts underneath and it’s a good job that I did as my dress exposed more than I bargained for when I reached dizzy heights on the scenic swing (ha ha). Guess what? Surprise, we had the whole place to ourselves again! Such a luxury and a shock seeing as you can drive a regular car right up to the swing. We usually find that places that are more remote and require a bit of a hike don’t have many folk but easy access tourist attractions are usually more visited and populated. We got lucky again, so blessed! The only negative was I couldn’t get a photo of us together sat under the heart. I had to rely on selfies, gosh I really hate up close and personal selfies with a passion. Just look how awesome this place is!
Raw nature at it’s best.
Oldest Swinger in Town
Thank god for wearing shorts (ha ha).
Orca de Pendilhe
GPS: 40.898382, -7.823741
After our scenic swing adventure and a quick lady pee pee in nature, we got naked in our car and changed into more appropriate clothing for hiking (ha ha). Even hubby got changed out of his jeans into shorts as it was a roasting hot day. We then made another pit stop to a historical dolmen: Orca de Pendilhe. You can park right next to the dolmen which is perfect. There are supposed to be engravings and markings on the historical dolmen but I couldn’t find them so I sent hubby on a mission to climb up to the top and investigate but he failed. I find these structures very fascinating yet eerie as they once were tomb chambers. It’s hard to explore every area as I always try best to respect the structure and Portuguese culture by not doing anything stupid or disrespectful.
I love visiting the megalithic dolmen monuments of Portugal. This magnificent dolmen would have been built around the end of the fourth millennium BC or the beginning of the third millennium BC. The Orca de Pendilhe is 1.5 kms from the Rural Museum and is one of the most visited in the municipality as it is in very good condition/well preserved with good access. This dolmen consists of a funerary chamber with nine pillars, a polygonal plan and a 5.20 m long corridor. There are red traces at the base of stones. The locals say there is an old legend about a Moorish girl that carried the top stone on her head while her husband carried all the other stones under his arm. Gosh, I thought I was strong but I would struggle carrying these huge rocks. Locally it is called Casa dos Mouros or Moorish House.
PR7 CDR Trilho das Levadas
GPS: 40.895716, -7.879418
Points of Interest:
Igreja Paroquial da Granja (Church)
Canastros e palheiros do Fojo (Granaries)
Moinho da Ribeira (Mill)
Moinhos e alpoldras da Ponte (Bridge mills and stepping stones)
Alpoldras do rio Mau (Mau/Bad river stepping stones)
Mina de Porto Seixo (Mine)
Cascata do Toqueiro (Waterfall)
Soutos do Redondelo (Chestnut grove)
The PR7 CDR Trilho das Levadas is a 11 km circular hiking trail with a high scenic, cultural and environmental interest. This hike was very beautiful and the Castro Daire area is extremely picturesque. I liked that it was an easy-moderate hike with no challenging hills or mountain goat climbing on all fours. The trail follows alongside the Paiva and Mau rivers which are stunning. There were a lot of different attractions to view including several Stepping Stones, a Waterfall, Watermills and a magnificent Mine. The starting point of the trail is at the Picnic Park, in the village of Granja and Parish of Mões. You will find the information board located next to the church.
I couldn’t find much information when I researched this hike. Some reviews mentioned that one set of the stepping stones may disappear under the river and I got more than a bit concerned when I saw photos of people wading through the waist high river to cross to the other side. I have already nearly drowned on 3 separate occasions since I relocated to Portugal and I didn’t want to add another near death experience to the toll. Then I read that there was an alternative route just in case this did occur. Before reaching the banks of the river, you will find an information plaque indicating the alternative route that will be useful in case the flow is high. You can never tell with Portugal weather and seasons as some folk have found this trail dry and disappointing. They most likely visited during the Summer time and the drought. Winter time may result in heavy rain fall and flooded areas so in my opinion Spring is perfect season to enjoy this trail. This river had and still has, in the life of the local population, a great importance in Portuguese culture and traditions especially in the milling industry where locals would use the mills for grinding of cereals and also use the rivers for fishing. You can easily access the rivers which is great on a hot day as it’s perfect to take a dip in the cool crystal clear waters if you get a bit sweaty Betty. I must admit that I was very tempted at one point. Some areas alongside the riverbed were a bit boggy and marshy so I got covered in mud. A hike isn’t a hike if you don’t get a bit of dirt smeared over your face (ha ha). There was a safety rope in one area which wasn’t needed but it proves that the rocks and terrain underfoot can become very wet, slippery and dangerous.
We loved exploring the Mina do Porto Seixo (Mine). It was very mystical and we walked as far as we could to view every crook and cranny. The floor was a bit wet underfoot with little puddles and it was very dark so I sent hubby upfront with his phone torch and followed in his footsteps. Hubby kept saying “Mine(d) your head” (ha ha). The Cascata do Torqueiro (Waterfall) is huge in size and very impressive but you cannot access it up right up close. We stood in silence from a distance listening to the rushing water crash down the granite cliffs. There is also an impressive mini waterfall further along the trail which is not listed as a point of interest but very serene. We stumbled across other beauties such as Abrigo do Pastor (Shepherd’s shelter). These little shelters are always so very tiny and we always find it fun to see if we can squeeze our bodies inside amongst all the spider webs. There is an intriguing ancient old river Mill named Moinhos de Ribeira. We always venture inside old buildings and this Mill still has some of the existing equipment which is a rare find. The signage is very well marked on this trail and all the points of interest are clearly signposted which is great. Near the end of the route there is a slight variation PR7.1 which cuts back to Granja and sheds a km or so off the whole route. There is also a short detour to a scenic swing but we didn’t bother as we had already viewed the Pendilhe swing and had a timeframe in mind. We did find a small tree swing which was fun.
Near the end of the trail we accidentally took the wrong turn and instead of passing over a tiny bridge we stumbled across an amazing farm located on the outskirts of Mões, (Quinta da Rabaçosa). What a perfect little paradise with a relaxing swimming pool and several holiday accommodations. We quickly realised we were on private property. I was expecting to get shouted at by the owners with the Portuguese equivalent to my West Country “Get off my land” (ha ha). We quickly retraced our steps back to the trail. The farm has beautiful horses and looks like a lovely location for some nature and forest therapy. I wish I could ride a horse and go pony trekking in Portugal. Unfortunately, my failed spinal surgery and removal of my coccyx prevents me from ever horse riding or riding a cycle which is a total shame. The stepping stones here were unfortunately missing the first stone so it made it impossible to cross safely. We are both vertically challenged and have sausage dog short stumpy legs so there was no way we could leap across without falling in the river with roaring rapids. We stood for a while debating our dilemma. There were 2 firm options. 1. Take our shoes off, roll up our pants and wade across or 2. Trespass on the farm’s private land again and walk along their property line border. I chose option 2 because the river was pretty damn ferocious and the water was crystal clear so I could see several mossy areas and stones which would be more slippery than a snake. I think we made the right decision and we ducked our heads down and ran like the wind whilst shouting “Disculpe” (ha ha). I found a hammock on a picnic table and hubby gave me the look because he can always read my mind. I obviously wanted to erect the hammock between 2 trees and have a Helena in a Hammock siesta session but we didn’t have time because we started the trail too late in the day as I am NOT a morning person.
Wow, what a spectacular adventure under the sun celebrating our special day together, simply magical. I even spotted a Donkey and hubby quickly moved me along as he could see that I was overthinking in my mind ways to steal it (ha ha). We started our hike around 2pm and arrived back at our car at 6pm so it took 4 hours including a lunch break. As usual we had the whole trail to ourselves and didn’t see another person until we stumbled across the farm. We ate our picnic next to the bridge and I did have a little incident here. As I bit down on my tuna fish sandwich I cracked my tooth/filling and in a panic and with a mouth full of bread and fish I accidently swallowed the foreign object so I had no idea if it was tooth enamel or a piece of filling. It was hard to see and determine the damage I had caused but we concluded that I had in fact broken a bit of a filling. If you know me you will understand that my biggest fear ever is the dentist.
I had a horrendous impacted wisdom tooth drama not so long ago and I was in agony for 10+ weeks. It was traumatic to say the least and I was absolutely gutted in the prospect of re-visiting my dentist. Luckily, I managed to get an emergency appointment the very next day and my lovely dentist fixed my filling and I was a brave soldier. Despite my tuna tooth incident I wasn’t in much pain. It was just slightly sensitive to hot and cold food/drink and it was super sharp so I kept cutting my tongue when I spoke but I don’t know when to shut up so I carried on talking because although silence is golden, I’m crap at being quiet. My mum always said I had a sharp tongue (ha ha). Well now I have a sharp tooth too. All this didn’t stop me enjoying a well deserved Car Cornetto & Coke on the journey home (ha ha). If you fancy something more substantial then this area is famous for truta do rio paiva (trout), cabrito assado (roasted goat), carolas com cabeça de porco fumada (smoked pigs head with seaweed), enchidos (sausage), presunto (ham) and trigo amarelo (yellow wheat).
The Tunnel of LOVE
My favourite part of the hike was the mysterious mine. Seeing as it was our anniversary I renamed it “The Tunnel of LOVE”. I had visions of a huge boulder falling and blocking the exit. We would then have to have an awkward conversation about who is going to eat who first (ha ha). Just look how incredible this mine is!
Home is where the heart is. I love eating outside in our little haven of a garden and now it’s Spring it is warm enough to eat outside on our little terrace with pretty fairy lights. After our day trip immersed in nature we returned home and celebrated some more with a yummy steak and chip dinner Al fresco and cracked open the duty free cherry rum. I love flat iron steak it’s a shame my IBS belly always rejects it the next day. Our anniversary coincided with Palm Sunday so we swapped our traditional celebration cake for a Folar de Maçã. Yes, I had a number 8 candle in my Easter sweet bread because I didn’t have any candles to blow out on my birthday and why the hell not! I did want a Number 8 gigantic silver balloon too but hubby said people might think that was my age and I had lost the zero balloon. I know I’m no Spring chicken but surely I don’t look 80! The number 8 would more likely represent my mental age (ha ha). We used hubby’s camera for these night time photos as my old iPhone just doesn’t cope with night shots. We have new fairy lights and although I love them they are super bright so you have 2 options: Extreme Bright (with terrace overhead light on) or Extreme Dark (with the main light off). We went for extreme brightness which I now regret because I look like Casper the friendly ghost (ha ha). Next time I will turn the lights off and do “Dating in the Dark”. We can celebrate by fumbling and stumbling in the darkness of the night (ha ha).
Folar de Maçã
Let us just take a moment to appreciate how wonderful this Folar is! This year we decided to make the effort and try our hand at making mini folar on Good Friday. They were a huge success, check out my Easter post here for photos: https://casavalhal.com/celebrating-easter-2023-in-portugal/
I Pick You & Balcony Blues (Personal Presents)
The traditional gift for an 8 year wedding anniversary is Bronze or Pottery. Bronze is a durable material that’s made out of two materials, copper and tin which are stronger when paired together, just like a loving couple. Bronze also represents strength and beauty. I think Adrian is strong and beautiful but I’m biased (ha ha). Whilst back in the UK recently I managed to source the best ever gift for hubby, a guitar pick made from an old fashioned bronze penny. It’s special, unique and one of a kind, just like him. I wanted to get his year of birth but they didn’t have it so I had to buy 1967. Kurt Cobain (Nirvana) was born in 1967 and died in 1994 so it can be a tribute to this legend and hubby loves Nirvana more than I do. It’s a good job hubby likes rock/heavy metal music and not R & B as R Kelly was also born in 1967 but took the wrong path as he is now a convicted sex offender and is currently in prison. His famous song might of believed he could fly but the only place he is flying is straight to hell!
I found a cute chicken shaped tin and hid the plectrum inside. The chicken was a frugal 49p UK charity shop find. I did want to visit Flying Saucer to design a personal pottery gift but it took a couple of days to cook in the kiln and in all honesty I would have broke it on the journey home and it would have looked like the effort of a not so very talented 5 year old because my creative skills are pants (ha ha). Hubby surprised me with a handmade artisan gift. He secretly crocheted me a donkey! I know his talents are endless, it’s so bloody awesome and I love it. He got up early before work and it took him a week and a half to complete the project, bless him. One day I will live out my donkey dream of rescuing 2 donkeys but until then meet Leroy the stuffed donkey. He is stuffed with fluff, I am stuffed with happiness, steak, rum and apple Folar (ha ha). Leftover Folar makes the perfect hair of the dog! Hubby is now under pressure to crochet me another Donkey so I have a matching pair (Leroy & Merlin). Then I will probably want them to adopt baby donkeys so he will have to find a pattern for mini baby donkeys so I can have a whole family (ha ha). The night ended with hubby serenading me on the balcony with some balcony blues. He is delighted with his new guitar pick and is using the chicken tin as a plectrum holder.
Hubby also bought me a resin mould kit to handmake Pandora charms. The kit was purchased from Etsy for €12 and came with a free gift (Kingfisher bird mould). The resin, colour dye and glitter pack was from Amazon Spain and cost €8. It arrived a bit late but I love it so much. I’ve owned my Pandora bracelet for ages and my kids and family members often bought me a little charm for special occasions like Mother’s Day or my birthday. Hubby is the creative one and very talented so he is going to have a go at making me some cute charms for my bracelet and fill the centre with unique and special materials such as flowers or sand from a romantic walk on our favourite beach. Many moons ago when I was 16 I worked for Natwest bank and there was a girl called Tanya and she used to wear a heart shaped locket around her neck which opened to reveal what should have been a photo of a loved one. One day she opened her treasured locket to show us something of her boyfriends. I just assumed it would be a photo but it was a few strands of his hair. I thought this was a bit weird seeing as he wasn’t dead but each to their own. Then she proudly announced that it was a few strands of his short and curlies – pubic hair! (ha ha). Needless to say I was horrified and nearly puked in my lap. Totally MINGING as us Bristolians would say. Rest assured I won’t be setting any of my sparse old grey lady pubes or any of hubby’s hairs in my resin Pandora bracelet charms, some things are sacred (ha ha).
It just goes to show that we are all human but have very different attitudes when it comes to what is right and wrong. Personally I totally understand the concept of cremation jewellery and carrying a few ashes of a deceased loved one around your neck and close to your heart. I also get that some folk might choose to add animal ashes or pet fur to jewellery from their beloved pet who has passed over to the rainbow bridge. Creating a lasting memorial to your pet is a loving tribute in my eyes. It would help me find closure after the loss of a pet and keep their memory close at all times but I know it would not be everyone’s cup of tea. I suppose the moral of the story is, what is weird for me might be your norm and who am I to say what is right or wrong. I’m super weird anyway and have no intention of changing for anyone. Stay weird and wonderful folk!
We had such an amazing fun day celebrating our wedding anniversary embracing nature amongst pure serenity and solitude. I feel totally refreshed and my whole body and soul feels alive and kicking. Some of my best memories are made in hiking shoes. I saw so many yellow butterflies on this hike it was strange but also very cute. Apparently yellow butterflies are representatives of new life and rebirth. They symbolise resurrection and may have been a symbol representing the soul in early Christianity. In one instance, seeing a yellow butterfly means good things and an abundance of happiness is coming your way, how fantastic! I can’t believe that we have been married 8 years and together 12. Time flies when your having FUN! When love comes, it comes without effort like the perfect weather.
No words needed!