I always celebrate both the Portuguese and UK Mother’s Day and with the weather being so beautiful I decided to plan an awesome day trip to Sernancelhe, Viseu. The district of Viseu covers a large area and although it normally only takes us 1 hr to drive to the centre of Viseu these tourist attractions I chose are located in the North of Viseu so our first point of interest was a 1 hr 45 min drive from our home and 100 km in distance. Once I had added on the additional attractions it totaled 115 km and 2 hrs 5 mins each way. I recently found the amazing Passadiços da Távora (Wooden Walkways) and the PR4 Sernancelhe hiking trail which includes the Observatório de Aves Arachnideo. An amazing bird observation platform in the shape of a spider! It’s a long drive so I found a couple more delights: Santuário da Senhora da Lapa (Religious Sanctuary/Chapel) and Castelo do Adriano (Castle) as well as the historical village of Sernancelhe and all it’s fabulous offerings.

I wanted a variety of tourist attractions and a mixed bag adventure so decided upon the following list of delights:


Santuário da Senhora da Lapa (Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lapa)

Castelo do Adriano (Hadrian’s Castle)

Sernancelhe – Igreja matriz (Main Church), Pelourinho (Pillory) and Porta do Sol (Door of the Sun)

Passadiços da Távora (Távora Walkways)

PR4 ALT – Observatório de Aves Arachnideo (Bird Observatory shaped like a Spider)

Praia fluvial de Vila da Ponte (River Beach)

Portuguese Mother’s Day

It was a special day (Mother’s Day) so I decided to make an effort and wear one of my cheerful and cheap charity shop bargain lady dresses and sandals to the chapel, castle and village then change into more appropriate leisure wear for our hike along the wooden walkways. I also packed my bikini, shorts, towel and usual picnic for the river beach. My reason for the outfit change was because I didn’t want to visit the chapel in a muscle vest exposing my bare shoulders and tattoos as I think it’s a little disrespectful and it’s way too hot to wear a jacket. I was also reluctant to wear my cheesy feet smelling trainers as they whiff a bit after all my jogging and power walking in 30 degree heat. I also wanted to look semi-pretty for some photos before I got covered in sweat and windswept to the the point where I look like a bag of shit (ha ha). I am used to getting naked and changing clothing in our car, I have it down to a fine art much to hubby’s delight. Whilst he is trying to concentrate on the road ahead I’m whipping off my attire and negotiating my over the head sports bra which cannot be done discreetly, believe me I’ve tried, it is not an easy feat, getting in and out of a sports bra is a whole workout in itself (ha ha). Lately I’ve been giving caution to the wind and following what the Portuguese locals do, they just stand at the boot of their car and get naked and change al fresco, if it’s good enough for the locals, it’s good enough for me. The only difference is, clumsy Helena ends up flashing her saggy breasts which lately resemble wind socks (ha ha).

Glove Box Helena Haribo Sweets

There was obviously the obligatory Helena Haribo glove box car sweets because anything over a 1 hr 30 min drive warrants a sugar fix, that’s our rule and it can’t be broken (ha ha). I got a whole bag to myself on this special occasion. My favourite is the pink and white fluffy ones and banana’s. Lately there has only been one banana in the whole bag! I might start a dirty protest at the Haribo factory or Head Office. I could chain myself to the radiator until they replace the multiple mini teddy bears with more bananas (ha ha). I think the teddy gummy bears are added to make up the weight ratio but I’m not happy about the situation. Variety is the spice of life.

Santuário da Senhora da Lapa (Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lapa)

GPS Coordinates:

40°52’13.0″N 7°34’31.0″W / 40.870278, -7.575278

Our first stop was this unbelievable enchanting chapel with 500 years of history. I’ve always wanted to visit this quaint chapel which is built around a huge granite boulder. Now for the best part: It has a cave in its interior with the original shrine of Nossa Senhora da Lapa which is a representation of the Holy Virgin Mary. Her image shows the Virgin Mary standing on clouds, with her hands together praying and wearing a crown with a dove (Symbol of the Holy Spirit). The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lapa and Residence of the Society of Jesus is a Christian Catholic Sanctuary and is located in the Parish of Quintela, Municipal of Sernancelhe. From the outside the Chapel looks like any other traditional Portuguese church but what lies beneath the simple exterior will shock you to the core and you will be amazed beyond belief. I literally could not believe my eyes! In addition to the granite boulder which is totally bizarre you will find many masterpieces inside. It really is a remarkable find.

Chapel History & Legend

There is a fascinating legend about construction of the chapel which originates from the Christian Reconquest. In the late 10th Century, nuns fleeing persecution hid an image (figurine) of the Virgin Mary under a boulder covering a small cave. In 1498 the figurine doll was uncovered by a 12 year old mute shepherdess named Joana who while guarding a small flock of sheep, spotted the image of Our Lady in the narrow opening. She built a small altar, decorated it with flowers, and paid tribute to her every day. The devotion and all the prayer that Joana dedicated to the image, earned her a special protection from the Virgin who, by a miracle, granted her the gift of speech. The first devotees enthroned the image in the cave and built a small hermitage beside it. There are a few variations of this story. Some folk say that Joana took the figurine home and made clothing for the doll which enraged her mother who threw the doll into a fire. The doll did not burn and Joana shouted out at her mother to Stop and regained the miracle of speech. It is also said that as her mother threw the doll into the fire her arm became paralysed but after some deep prayer together she gained full movement back. The power of prayer!

News of this miracle spread all around the world reaching India and Brazil bringing pilgrimages to the area. It was believed that anyone would be able to pass through the narrow opening of the cave unless they had committed a serious sin. The first chapel was built next to the rock in 1498 and in 1576 the shrine was entrusted to the Jesuits (Fathers of the Society of Jesus). They then built the current Sanctuary, sheltering the cave inside. The architecture is Baroque and was completed in 1635. Later in 1685 they started the construction of the College which adjoins the chapel today. Every year on the 15th August The Feast of Our Lady of the Boulder is celebrated and attracts thousands of pilgrims. Other dates for Pilgrimages are 10th June and the 1st Sunday in September. Various artefacts have been donated throughout the years including treasures offered by kings and queens including a golden chair, silver plated crown encircled with diamonds and precious stones, coins and various other wonders including many monetary gifts. Senhora da Lapa, along with Santiago de Compostela, were once the two most important sanctuaries in the Iberian Peninsula.

Bonkers & Bizarre – Our Experience

We arrived around 10.45am and we first viewed the outside of the chapel and visited the Information Centre. It was open but there was no member of staff present. We waited for over 5 minutes and no one came so we left and made our way into the chapel. As soon as I walked through the door I was amazed by the pretty holy font surrounded by blue, white and yellow traditional Portuguese tiles. There were a few people sitting and standing at the altar praying so it was more than a little tricky to walk around and take photos. We weren’t actually sure if we were just allowed to roam freely or if we needed an escort/tour guide so we decided to sit with a dozen or so other folk and ponder our next move. It was like an awkward game of chess (ha ha). Whilst we were sitting in silence trying to read each others minds another family entered and proceeded up the aisle to the altar and started to embark on their own self-guided tour so we quickly followed their lead. There were only about a dozen people when we first entered but by the time we had made it up to the altar and I looked behind me there were around 50 people so it was really difficult to take discreet photos with a congregation of 50 worshipers staring right at us and not breaking eye contact to blink (ha ha). I tried my best and under the circumstances I think I didn’t do a bad job. Usually I would take more photos and capture all the signage to translate but it was getting uncomfortable and really embarrassing by the end and my main concern was to be respectful of this holy marvel.

I cannot believe how crazy and mind blowing this chapel is. It literally took my breath away. I have viewed many religious places here in Portugal including sanctuaries, chapels, monasteries, convents and temples such as the Holy sacred Fátima, Bom Jesus in Braga, Nossa Senhora dos Remédios in Lamego, Jerónimos Monastery in Lisbon, Alcobaça, Lorvão, and Batalha Monasteries and Convent of Christ in Tomar but this chapel is without a shadow of a doubt my absolute favourite of all time. I know it’s not on the grand scale of some of these other religious buildings but I think it has the wow factor and is magnificently eloquent yet quirky at the same time with its stunning elaborate golden altar pieces, high vaulted ceilings, delicate arches, marble columns and wooden floors mixed with the crazy crocodile, boulder, cave and ancient legends. No photo will do this place justice, you just have to visit to appreciate the architecture and magical ambiance this place offers. I fell in love with the turquoise blue and gold marble columns. It is the essence of everything glorious and eccentric. Apart from the obvious original image of Nossa Senhora da Lapa, there are so many altar pieces and some of my favourites were: The altar of the Crucifixion – Scene of the death of Jesus in which he sees an angel collecting the last drops of his blood. Nossa Senhora da Lapa (Our Lady of Lapa) – A replica of the one that the shepherdess Joana found and cherished. A Senhora da Boa Morte (The Lady of the Good Death) – The Angels and Apostles are outstanding! There are other mind blowing pieces dedicated to the Death of Saint Joseph, Our Lady of Solitude, Baby Jesus and Saint Anthony receiving Jesus and Mary. The Oratory of Senhora das Dores (Our Lady of Sorrows) with its nativity by António Ferreira is stunning. The Chapel of the Holy Sacrament displays an impressive Coat of Arms and tomb of Pedro do Soveral. Hubby’s favourite artefact was the huge crazy crocodile which has a famous legend.

It is believed that anyone can pass through the narrow opening in the cave unless they have committed a serious sin. I was slightly concerned and nervous about getting firmly wedged in this dark cave for an eternity, not only because I am a sinner but due to the fact I have eaten so much Portuguese cake and ice cream recently. I was worried my lardy ass would not fit through the tiny gap (ha ha). Luckily for me it did, I passed through with ease and so did hubby so I can rest peacefully and sleep at night in the knowledge that we both have a firm place reserved in heaven for us so we can be reunited and enjoy more adventures together in the afterlife. We had better lay off the cake and ice-cream this summer and keep up with our jogging and cycling (ha ha). In all honesty I’m not sure I’m a great fit for heaven as the first rule is Obedience and I do like to break the rules a lot so I might be better off in hell, after all my name is Helena (ha ha). I also had visions of the film 127 Hours which is a film about a mountain climber who gets stuck under a boulder and has to cut his own arm off with a rusty pen knife! I didn’t have a pen knife in my bag just a tin of vaseline lip gloss, hand sanitiser and a banana, not great release me from beneath a boulder tools (ha ha). Whilst we were squeezing our bodies through the opening, music and hymns started to play and by the time we exited the cave there was a Mother’s Day Mass in full blown swing and the chapel was packed with a full congregation of about 100 people or more! At this point we were located behind the altar and we could see the priest and nun delivering the service. Thank goodness we found a back exit door located next to Carlos the Crocodile otherwise we would have had to gatecrash the mass and make an embarrassing retreat through a fully packed church which would have been mortifying. 

I adored everything about this little chapel, it is a true treasure and hidden gem as a lot of people are unaware of it’s existence. If you want to experience a spiritual awakening then this is the place for you. Be prepared for the adventure to provoke deep emotions, I was prepped like a Girl Scout with a handbag size pack of tissues for my tears (ha ha). Even hubby enjoyed himself and he particularly loved all the Portuguese traditional tiles and crazy crocodile. This is a rare occurrence but this time it was hubby who managed to embarrass himself. He decided to explore a little closed room which opened when he tried his luck on the door handle. To his horror a Nun came rushing out and I think he entered a private out of bounds secret room. I tried my very best not to piss my pants laughing as I’m usually the village idiot and the one to make a fool of myself (ha ha). The chapel is simply stunning and a beautiful place for prayer and reflection and I wish we had more time because I would have loved to stay for all of the mass and not just catch a glimpse of it. I cannot believe that they don’t charge a fee for the upkeep as it is very well preserved. I made a small donation as usual and lit a candle for my heavenly Mum on this special day. I love that all the chapels have little printed prayer sheets that you can take for a small donation. On this occasion I read this little prayer which I thought was very appropriate for Mother’s Day and in honour of my Mum, gone but never forgotten.

Oração (Prayer)

Our Lady of Lapa, You who, more than five hundred years ago, appeared in a humble image to the shepherdess Joana and gave her the gift of speech, and in the rocky cave, you made so many graces of God descend on poor humanity, always be the star that shines in the darkness of our life. Admirable mother, turn your kind gaze towards us and attend to all our needs. Our Lady of Lapa, we trust in you. Give peace to the world, protect our families, support us in times of distress, strengthen our faith and obtain for us the grace of final perseverance.

Chapel Selfies

As usual one pose hubby, multiple pose Helena (ha ha). We couldn’t see a thing in the blaring sunlight!

Carlos the Crocodile

This was hubby’s favourite artefact and donation to the chapel. It used to hang from the ceiling but is now safely protected in a glass display cabinet which is probably for the best. I think someone notified the chapel that the weird ass Brit was visiting and that it was highly likely that she would want to either wrestle him to the ground or ride him down the river. We named him Carlos the Crocodile after my ex husband (ha ha). Our meeting with Mr Carlos the Crocodile got us talking about the Crocodile Dundee films and then I spent the next 30 mins speaking in my best Aussie accent. It’s apparently not as good as my Irish accent but I pursued it for a while just to confuse the Portuguese people and to make hubby laugh (ha ha). You would think my Aussie accent would be better seeing as my old boss was an Aussie. If you’re reading this Pete then “G’ Day Mate” Do you miss me yet? (ha ha). Both our photos are a bit shit as there is an external door right opposite the glass cabinet and sunlight was pouring through. A random light kept coming on off and a combination of both of these things prevented a decent photo opportunity as light kept shining directly on the glass causing an annoying reflection but we tried our best because it’s just too weird and wonderful not to share the joy. I translated the signage wording:

Origin of the Crocodile

It is one of the oldest ex-votos in this Sanctuary, as it is already mentioned in a document from 1711. According to reports, it would have come from India, brought by a man from this region and devoted to Senhora da Lapa. When attacked by the animal, he invoked protection of Our Lady and managed to kill him. As a sign of recognition, he would have brought the skin with which the animal was reconstituted, which is undoubtedly one of the singularities of this Sanctuary.

The Legend of Sardão da Lapa

As there are no crocodiles here, but the configuration is similar to that of a lizard, the people, over time, invented the following legend: A woman, at the top of the mountain range, was attacked by a large lizard. To defend herself, as she was a weaver, she threw skeins at him which the animal swallowed, and pulling by the ends of the threads that she had held in her hand, she managed to asphyxiate him.

Restoration in May 2008

The state of degradation over the course of centuries forced master restoration intervention. He was previously seen hanging and with his skin painted green. As this animal is neither green nor flying, an attempt was made to bring it closer to reality. I am thinking that a closer call to reality and nature would have been to let the croc live and leave him in the lake in India! In the Museum of the Sanctuary, in a glass case, are the pieces of authentic skin that, however deteriorated, the restoration technician thought should not be included in this reconstitution, but treated in order to prolong its duration. I find this a combination of eerie, weird yet fascinating.

Carlos the Crocodile Selfies

This photo opportunity of a lifetime could not be passed by (ha ha). I have not been this close to a crocodile since 1992 when I backpacked around the world and visited a crocodile park in Singapore. I was horrified as the animal keepers were feeding whole chickens to the crocs and the show included the staff members putting their whole heads inside the crocs open mouths. Silence was asked for in the crowd and no flash photography. Some idiot spectator took a photo on his camera and the flash went off like a bright beacon, these were the days before mobile phone cameras. The croc snapped his mouth shut when the flash went off and this poor chap very nearly got decapitated, I was traumatised for weeks but at least it wasn’t me with the camera flash (ha ha).

Hilarious Reviews

I read a negative review for this chapel on Tripadvisor and it translated very badly but the basic gripe was this bloke did not like the out of date merchandise! I can only assume that it is referring to the little artisan stalls outside of the chapel in the square selling regional goat cheese, Lapa bread and sausages. 

Out-of-date food items including limpet cheeses without certification manufactured in a domestic environment – Religion takes people to the sanctuary. Small merchants take advantage of the faith of idiots. It is enough to analyse carefully the predisposition of the merchants and the price charged for the products, sometimes out of date. Because we, by faith, do anything until we suffer from gastroenteritis. I informed the City Council of Sernancelhe who did nothing. Summarising: Small pockets of faith away from us quickly or else we will suffer the consequences.

God bless this man, he wasn’t happy was he. I think the overpriced cheese gave him the shits (ha ha). After our exhilarating chapel experience we headed on our merry way full of joy and heartfelt emotion. We didn’t visit the museum as we had a tight schedule but if you wander down through the square you will see the museum (former jail) and pillory. Opposite the chapel there is a lovely cafe/resturant if you fancy lunch or a snack. There is a huge picnic park near the chapel and I was amazed at the amount of stone picnic tables and benches. I assume they are provided for the thousands of Pilgrims who descend on the chapel on Holy days.

Castelo do Adriano (Hadrian’s Castle)

I found a Castle named after hubby! It is often called Hadrian’s Castle which is just so cool as it is a mix of both our names. Now I just need to find a castle named Helena (ha ha). I might not live in a grand castle but I adore my little Portuguese schist casa with sensational countryside views. Hubby will always be King of our castle and I will be his Queen until he trades my menopausal saggy ass in for a younger Princess (ha ha). 

There is also another Castle of Sernancelhe but it’s in ruins and not much remains. I was intrigued to visit this modern day built castle so added it to my itinerary. I had read that the owner Adriano dos Santos and his sons built this castle with their bare hands over 20 years ago and the construction costs exceeded €350,000! This charming building is located in Lamoso. Adriano’s obsession and desire to build a castle stems from a childhood dream. Children believe in a magical world and fairy tales. Ever since he was a child Antonio had a fascination with castles and dreamt about building a grand enchanted castle one day. The building process was lengthy and a very complicated process. Building such a place in the 21st Century faced many problems as initially the Municipal refused planning permission. The Castle is still not finished and requires more financial input so future works are currently postponed. Despite it not being complete, it’s absolutely sensational and we loved the towers and pinnacles of the castle. It is surrounded by an imposing wall and a pretty garden. Adriano’s eldest son was married here complete with a banquet fit for a King, what an idyllic spot for a wedding. The Castle is visible from afar and really is a majestic piece of architecture. There is a future plan to transform the castle into a restaurant with a terrace next to the Keep. On pilgrimage days, many people make a detour and stop by to admire its glory and I can see why as it’s simply breathtaking.

Unfortunately all the gates were firmly locked and we weren’t able to wander around the amazing gardens. We still had a lot of fun imagining what it would be like to live here. I’m not sure if the owner still lives here but I feel he is missing out on an opportunity. Personally I would open the gardens to the public and charge a small entrance fee, maybe offer guided tours. Another marketing asset would be to hire out the grounds for weddings and celebrations. We enjoyed viewing all the different doors and entrances. We peered through every gap available. The funniest part was hubby gave me a bunk up so I could try and scale the walls as all the gates were locked, believe me, I tried every door with force. I very nearly golden showered his back from laughing too much. He’s strong but he’s not that strong. 

Crazy Couple Castle Selfies

We had to use a selfie stick and climb on a huge boulder to obtain these Selfies with the castle as a backdrop. This is why my stance is all over the place as I was stupidly wearing wedge heeled sandals instead of my trusty trainers. I’m clinging onto hubby for dear life whilst trying to stabalise my feet and not slip, he had to carry me back down to safety (ha ha). Hubby thinks the last Selfie looks like an album cover (ha ha). I think our band name would be “Frugal Fogies”.

Solo Selfies – Serene & Silly

Whilst hubby was locating my water bottle in the boot of the car I took a few more solo selfies because why the hell not (ha ha). I had a piggyback off of the large boulder to return to flat stable terrain because it was becoming a health and safety slipping risk. It was virtually impossible to get a Selfie without the top of the castle cut off unless you take from a position below which I don’t recommend because you end up looking like 5 chin Helena. It’s definitely not the most flattering position to take a photo from but on a positive note I’m only flashing my bra on a couple of photos so all is good in the world of shit Selfies (ha ha). I have perfected my serene to silly and back to serene pose in 30 seconds quite well (ha ha).

Random Wild Card

After leaving the castle we headed onto Sernancelhe to view the village attractions. I spotted this statue and cute chapel out of the corner of my eye on a drive by so I made hubby do a U Turn so I could take a closer look. He was happy as he found a perfect shady spot under a beautiful tree. I left him there for a while to contemplate the meaning of life (ha ha).

Sernancelhe – The Historic Centre

Sernancelhe is a Portuguese village in the Douro sub-region, belonging to the North region and the district of Viseu. The village of Sernancelhe sits at an altitude of 650 metres. It is embraced by the rivers Távora and Medreiro, which refresh the banks, fertilise the fields and irrigate the crops. On the slopes there are fabulous farms with flourishing orchards and vineyards with many chestnut trees. Sernancelhe is a great example of a traditional medieval village with ancient 12th Century church and anthropomorphic tombs that surround it. There is a former Primary School built next to the church which is now the Municipal Library. Next to it is the Padre Cândido Museum (Sacred Art). The Pillory dates from 1554 and is located opposite the Casa da Câmara. The Solar dos Carvalhos, behind the Church has some stunning doors and architecture, it was just a shame that cars were parked right in front of the doors because I do love a photo opportunity posing in front of an 18th Century decorative door (ha ha).

The main trio of delights that we viewed were the eye catching Porta do Sol (Door of the Sun), one of the last remaining features of the captivating castle ruins which is now a guest house. Igreja Matriz (Main Church) dedicated to Saint John the Baptist and Pelourinho (Pillory). My favourite of the 3 was the ancient castle Door of the Sun and granite wall which dates from 12th/13th centuries. Built by the Knights of the Order of Hospitallers, the medieval castle is currently in ruins. The view from the top were a total surprise. We walked up the many steps of the staircase and found the magnificent Cruzeiro do Senhor dos Aflitos (Cruise of the Lord of the Afflicted) – A religious monument of a cross protected by a square porch. There is also a picnic park, fountain and monument. The scenic views overlooking the crumbling castle walls was a sheer delight with all the white washed houses with terracotta roof tops. A Facebook friend mentioned that she was surprised I didn’t slide down the railings to avoid walking down all the steps on the way back down (ha ha). This person knows me too well! It did cross my mind but I was wearing a rather short dress for church but later in the day I redeemed myself on the trail once safely changed into my hiking leggings. I slid down the bird observatory handrails like a stripper down a greasy pole. Actually I was more like a rat down a drainpipe and I nearly had an accident and broke my leg (ha ha). 

Passadiços da Távora (Távora Walkways)

GPS Coordinates:

40°55’12.5″N 7°30’50.7″W / 40.920140, -7.514081

The wonderful Passadiços do Távora Pedestrian Trail (PR4-9 km) starts and ends on the footbridges, next to the sports square and next to the river beach of Vila de Ponte, in the parish of Vila da Ponte, municipality of Sernancelhe and district of Viseu. After walking for about 1.5 km on the footbridges, where you can admire the beauty of the river, cross the extraordinary Pedestrian Bridge over Ribeira de Ferreirim, and follow a parallel path. At km 2.5, the route presents two possibilities: continue to the right (PR4), towards the parish of Freixinho or those who want to take a shorter route, can choose to take the left (PR4 ALT) for another 3 km of distance to the end. If you choose the PR4, towards Freixinho, you will pass by the Old Convent of Nossa Senhora do Carmo, from the 17th Century, the parish church and riverside area. On the way back to Vila da Ponte, and after passing by the Bird Observatory platform which is shaped like a spider, take the Pedestrian Bridge and the Walkways again.

There is a lot of free parking, picnic area and toilets available opposite the starting point. It even has outdoor gym equipment if you fancy sweating your tits off in the severe heat, I politely declined (ha ha). The walkway is free and no ticket is required. This new wooden walkway offers such a panoramic route as it runs along the banks of the Albufeira da Barragem do Vilar and connects the River Beach of Vila de Ponte to the Bridge over the Ribeira de Ferreirim. I do love all the wooden walkways in Portugal but my preference will always be a hike amongst nature mainly because we rarely see another soul on our forest and mountain hikes but the wooden walkways are always more populated with people especially the flat walkways due to their easy accessibility for bikes, pushchairs, small children and people with reduced mobility. We saw a friendly local lady on the walkway using the assistance of a walking frame. It’s flat so it was perfect for her and I’m delighted that she got to enjoy all the incredible nature but I was slightly worried that she all alone on her journey especially on Mother’s Day. I am not totally convinced about all the money that it costs to build these structures and the wildlife habitat which is destroyed in the building process but we did have a lot of fun in the sun.

After a quick outfit change into my hiking gear we packed our backpacks with our picnic lunch, plenty of water and sunscreen then headed off on our adventure. We decided to have a little rest on the wooden platform and viewing point at the very start of the trail and enjoyed our usual coke and snickers snack whilst watching gigantic fish jump out of the water high up into the air. I must have counted about a dozen! There was a Portuguese family here too enjoying the views and they had a huge van, BBQ and table set up with a pretty tablecloth. The culinary delights that were on the grill smelt divine and I tried my very best to befriend them so that we would receive an invite to their Portuguese cook out. I sadly failed in my mission, apparently the Portuguese do not get subtle hints (ha ha). We started off along the walkways and it was a lovely gentle smooth flat stroll with far stretching scenic views. Apart from a few fishermen we only saw a handful of people on the whole trail. I really expected there to be more folk out celebrating Mother’s Day with their families but again we got the luxury of solitude, freedom and space to be as silly as we wanted. I liked the signage which provides opportunities for observing and learning about the flora and fauna. The Walkways are very newly constructed and this is clearly evident.

The metal pedestrian bridge over the Ribeira de Ferreirim has the wow factor and is such an unusual design, I loved it. We took a little break half way across to enjoy the sensational views across the river and magnificent landscapes. Gosh, what a beautiful place amongst mother nature. There is a huge lake of Távora which is awe-inspiring and we saw so many birds of prey. The mirror reflections on the water were magical. What a dazzling place, nature at its purest! It’s certainly a little haven of tranquility and harmony. There are so many idyllic spots along the way to lay down your picnic blanket. The scenery and views are to die for!

I had a wild pee peeing incident on this trail. I’m not going to share the details because I’m still mortified but at least I won’t ever see the people again, hopefully (ha ha). We took a total of 2 hours but we did stop for lunch and for multiple photos. My Garmin watch recorded a total of 1 hour walking and 5.5 km for the PR4 ALT. The only minor negative I can find is there are no water fountains to fill up your water bottle along the way. There is also limited shade so I would suggest going in Spring or Autumn and not the heat of Summer.

PR4 ALT – Observatório de Aves ‘Arachnideo’ (Bird Observatory)

Once you cross the pedestrian bridge of Ribeira de Ferreirim you can extend your walk by continuing on the PR4 ALT to view Observatório de Aves ‘Arachnideo’ (Bird Observatory), a fascinating structure which is shaped like a spider. It’s a lovely extension and not too far with gorgeous views of vineyards. How awesome! What a bizarre design, we loved it. If you add this onto your journey the total distance is 5.5 km. Hubby loved the architecture and I had to agree that it is such a rare find and something very special, I’ve not seen anything like this in Portugal. The usual bird look out points I’ve visited are all wooden huts. As we saw limited people on the trail, I assumed that everyone would be hanging out here but we struck gold again and were the only ones. We got the luxury of having the whole place to ourselves as usual which was unreal and magical. I enjoyed leaving the walkways and entering rugged terrain underfoot. I always find it fun clambering up huge boulders and jumping over rocks and wild vegetation.

After we explored the Spider we climbed over the huge boulders and found a lovely spot for our picnic lunch under the shade of a tree. I loved the endless water mirror reflections and images bouncing off the water. It was certainly a heavenly spot to unplug and observe mother nature. We chilled out for a while after lunch and I used hubby’s body as a pillow for a little lie down (ha ha). It was delightful to feel the cool breeze on my skin and breathe in fresh clean air. I felt recharged and one Happy Helena. I have already decided to re-visit this place in the summer with my daughter and take our paddle boards and float up the river to the spider and back. It will be a fantastic experience and a few of the jumping fish might land on my SUP board if I’m lucky (ha ha).

I usually make Selfie’s small because we aren’t getting any younger and up close and personal selfie’s suck when your nearly 50 but this place is so beautiful that I decided to make all the Spider Selfie’s larger than life to share the joy along with my windswept hair. We took a lot of photo’s here because we used both our phone cameras. I just couldn’t help myself as it’s such a unique find and a rare opportunity. I didn’t want to leave this wonderful place but we decided to head back and whilst walking back along the walkways we saw a couple of middle aged ladies walking in the opposite direction. We could hear some party music playing from a loud speaker in the distance and assumed it was some form of celebration. The ladies were all dressed up in their Sunday best, barefoot and carrying their high heeled shoes. We did have a giggle as high heels and wooden walkways are not a great match. You can’t live in Portugal and be precious about your shoes as they get trashed on all the cobbled pavements. I live in trainers or flip flops, the designer shoes are long gone (ha ha).

Praia fluvial de Vila da Ponte (River Beach)

After the trail we returned to our car for another costume change into our beach attire. I was beginning to feel like Madonna or Beyonce with all my different outfits (ha ha). It was still really hot and I had anticipated a refreshing dip so de-muffed my bikini line accordingly. It seemed such a waste not to expose my precisely groomed lady garden because in 3 days time the regrowth rash and ingrowing hairs are going to be a killer when I jog up the mountain hills so I didn’t want my excessive pruning to go to waste so to speak (ha ha).

We ended the day at a beautiful serene river beach. It was a gorgeous day in May so I took a little dip to cool off. What better than a refreshing swim to end our perfect day. Hubby watched from afar as I ventured in. I like to take every opportunity that is up for grabs because we are a long time dead! This river beach is new and was inaugurated in 2021. It is considered to be one of the best river beaches in Northern Portugal due to its jaw-dropping backdrop. It was virtually empty so a very peaceful end to our day. I like that it has a choice of sand and grass. During the summer months and river beach season there is a lifeguard, canoe/kayak and bike hire, a mobile bar, picnic area and 2 floating pools, one for adults and one for children. I bet the child one is a different colour of water due to all the pee pee (ha ha). We decided to take a hand in hand romantic stroll around the floating pontoon to view the 2 pools. It was roped off but someone had removed the rope so that is an open invitation in my eyes. What an adorable leisure area and I even found a swing and kicked a kid off so I could have a go (ha ha).

I always get a little sad at the end of a day trip as I never want to leave. Then I realise that I’m not on holiday and this is my life and that I can come back any time I want to. I still get confused about this after 3+ years of living here in Portugal. Some day excursions are just so marvelous that I don’t want them to end. I remember living back in the UK, I hated Sundays with a passion because they were a day for the gym followed by a gigantic pile of washing then ironing in front of the TV. Sundays filled me with dread and were so depressing. After working hard all week I would be super happy on Friday and enjoy Saturday but Sundays were deflating to say the least. I live such a different and super fun life here in Portugal. It’s a full 360 turn around from my old stressful boring life and I am eternally grateful for every second of it. Sometimes I have to pinch myself as I think it’s not real. I am totally blessed and living my life to the max which is how it should be. You only get one chance at this thing called life so make it count!

Romance is the Icing but Love is the Cake – Cake Selfies

We found the perfect shady spot under a tree next to the scenic swing to enjoy our cakes. Lots of the trees were decorated with paper flowers and crazy crochet works of art. I love viewing yarn bombing amongst nature. There was just the right amount of wind to cool me off. I love these cakes, I’ve eaten one every day over the past 3 days. They are very plain but bursting full of fruit and similar to the British scone but way more flavorsome. I think I have developed an addiction and it’s fierce and strong like me. Hubby said I’m a lot like this cake – Extra fruity with a hint of nut (ha ha). Of course once he said this I had the TV advert song (slogan) “Everyone’s a fruit and nutcase” on a repeated loop in my head (ha ha).

Solo Sugar Fix Selfies

I had a whole heap of fun under this tree eating my yummy Portuguese cake. The first photo is hilarious, there is a random bloke accidently photo bombing my cake selfie’s. It looks like he’s about to sit on my shoulder or fart in my face (ha ha).


I really love viewing different tourist attractions and the day was an incredible celebration and such a mixed bag of treats. It was a long car journey but the time went quite fast and I made sure we packed plenty of extra snacks to keep us fueled and happy. I think my favourite part of the trip was the bird observatory platform deep amongst rugged nature and the captivating chapel with its detailed architecture and fascinating ancient legends but I loved everything. It was the best ever day and a total burst of nature’s therapy, silence and clarity to regenerate my mind, body and soul. I really enjoyed our picnic next to the waters edge. It was such a sense of calm and serenity.

Ladders & Life – Photo of the Day

I will leave you with one of my favourite photos of the day. It’s probably not my best angle but it encompasses what my new life in the sun is all about: FUN & ADVENTURE. Some people spend their whole lives focusing on climbing the career ladder of success only to find, once they reach the top, that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall. I am so lucky that I was able to give up my demanding education job in the UK when I relocated here 3 years ago. It’s all thanks to hubby’s hard work and dedication combined with the reduced cost of living and significantly lower house prices, I’m so blessed and grateful. I now take every opportunity that is thrown at me and live life to the max. This Lady of Leisure is climbing the Ladder of Life!

Wow, what an absolutely incredible day with my soulmate celebrating the joy of being a momma bear. Life is great if you cease every opportunity!