We left Braga behind, after one more procession, viewed from the balcony of our apartment as planned. We were quite ready to move on to somewhere more peaceful. For me, Amarante, in the Douro region, provided just that. Settled very beautifully in a gorge on the Rio Tâmega, a tributary of the Douro, it has lovely walks on both banks of the river.
Driving from Braga took only 45 minutes, and our hotel, Casa da Ribeirinha, was situated right on the riverside. The car was manoeuvred up the drive, and there it stayed for 3 days. It was an older property, full of character, with views across the river to the church and former monastery of São Gonçalo– just perfect! I couldn’t wait to cross the elegant bridge and explore.
Confidently dominating the main square, the church of São Gonçalo allegedly marks the site of the hermitage of this 13th century hermit. A performer of miracles of healing, touching the saint’s tomb is said to guarantee a swift marriage.
We wandered upwards through the town, loving the dignity of the houses. Our reward for a stiff climb was a breathtaking overview of the church and cloisters, stretched far below. The smaller church of São Domingos, at the top of a steep flight of steps, was where the Good Friday procession was to start, later that day.
It was an unexpectedly warm day and we were glad to dip into São Gonçalo for some welcome shade. Despite the ornate decoration the church felt light and airy, the organ mounted high above us and the cloisters welcoming in the sunshine. I resisted the temptation to stroke the saint’s foot. One marriage is enough, isn’t it?
An irresistible cafe overlooked the river, a perfect spot for lunch, with a counter loaded full of inviting cakes, but I have my priorities and there was more exploring to do. Back at the bridge we opted for the left hand route, bypassing the market and dropping down to the footpath along the river. It proved a good choice, for we ambled through dappled shade, with rowing boats idling by the riverbank.
Rounding the bend beneath the road bridge, we were surprised to come upon a water slalom, disturbing the surface of the flat calm river. It was deserted, apart from a couple idling on a pontoon in the sun and, further along, a family fishing and dabbling at the water’s edge. An idyllic scene, it was time to turn back and do a little idling ourselves, on the roof terrace of our hotel.