I am awake in a baronial bedroom with lacework, heavily carved furniture and tiled floors – not what I’d choose for home but one doesn’t want home on an adventure.
After 7 hours of driving, I know that beyond the thick curtain of rain lies a marvellous valley full of visual treats and history that will provide lovely riverside walking and gentle vistas for the artist. As the owner of the large country mansion in which I am staying knows many local musicians and choirs and the house has its own chapel, I am pretty sure this place will be a magical base for our singers too. The gardens are enormous and full of formal gardens and covered walkways – from the French doors of my bedroom and through the curtain of rain I see a knot garden of azaleas and camellias.
I have wanted to discover the Minho region for several years but at last I am here. The house in which I am staying is called Paco de Calheiros and is just outside the ancient town of Ponte de Lima.
We are about 20 minutes in from the Atlantic with apparently empty beaches and the gentle hillsides are terraced with vines. Going east I believe I will discover more beautiful old towns built on the river as I climb towards the hill country from which it springs. The Lima brings many memories of our local river Severn – its currently and unsurprisingly in flood and it carries Salmon and Lampreys – the Severn being the only river in which I have ever seen a Lamprey.
Granite is the predominate stone – reminiscent of Galicia on my honeymoon – a perfect stone to stand strong against the Atlantic – and a wonderful building material for the old granary stores that stand amidst the old farmsteads.
Photos are going to be hard as the forecast is rain for every day I have here – and its photographers I have in mind immediately as I’ve been asked to find a location for a few days of fine art nude photography – a private group we plan to bring here in September to coincide with the big festival by the river.
Breakfast is approaching and there will be just two us at the 30 foot long table – hope I can reach everything!
Written by John Brough on a research trip to Ponte de Lima, West Portugal.
Watch this space!