Sunday 9th October: Cathedral Mass and tour to Aveiro.
The fog was thick this morning and so I didn’t get out until almost 9 am. I didn’t dally though as I wanted to be home in time to do some chores before catching 11 am Mass at the Cathedral. I was only a few minutes late for the service and, as I didn’t understand a word, the beautiful singing by the male tenors rendered this more of a concert experience for me. How lucky these parishioners are!
I drifted home after Mass in time for my 2.30 pm tour down the coast to Aveiro; the name being derived from ‘place of the birds’. Aveiro is a coastal town about 70 km south of Porto and is referred to as ‘The Venice of Portugal’ due to the system of canals that make up the area. I was the last to be picked up by our guide making me the 8th member of our small group tour. There was our young and handsome 30-something Architect trained-guide, Miguel, two loud but very interesting American ladies from California, two rather quiet Brazilian ladies and an older French-speaking Canadian couple. I later learned that Miguel, the youngest of 7 boys, had been working abroad but came home to be closer to his mother! Hear this Tom!!!
Aveiro stands as a coastal Portuguese town for its long tradition in the salt and fishing industries, both of which generated much wealth for the area up until the 15th Century. This all changed though when the area was devastated by a major storm cell that destroyed the harbor which went on to undermine both industries. The changed harbour conditions negatively impacted the fish population and it also meant that boat transport to export their salt product wasn’t possible. Rehabilitation of the harbour didn’t evolve until the 19th Century at which time both industries returned and the prosperity of the area was gradually restored.
Our first stop on the tour was to a canal-side shop selling traditional egg sweets called ‘Ovus Moles’. Dating back to the 1800s, the local nuns used egg whites as a form of starch for their ironing chores and then used the left over yolks to make this particular sweet and, whilst they looked a bit odd, they were delicious!
Our group then joined with a larger one and boarded a traditional Gondala-style boat for a 45 minute tour of the local canals. These boats would have originally been used to transport seaweed (for fertilizer) and salt but they’re now used a tourist vessel to navigate through the various natural canals. We passed by some of the traditional fisherman villages and then through the new and expensive real estate parts of Aveiro.
After the canal cruise we met up with Miguel again and drove a few kilometers across to the harbor and beach area of Baha (means Harbour) where there is the 3rd largest Light House in the world. From there we crossed over to Nova Costa (New Coast) where many of the traditional Fisherman Huts had been renovated to high-end holiday rentals. Miguel advised us that much of this area is just holiday rental and is packed over their summer but deserted during the winter.
We returned to Porto by about 7pm and I had a quiet dinner at home.