After raking up a £42.88 toll bill over the previous 19 days, and with only 2 days left in Portugal a “Toll Road Ban” had probably been realised a little late in the day, but we were thankful of our decision, back road driving made for a much more pleasant journey.  Our next stop was Ponte De Lima, a recommendation from Richard Hall that we didn’t regret.  Just over an hour and a half’s steady drive from Porto, a few drives up and down the same narrow cobbled street and a telephone call later, to the hotel owner to find out that we were actually outside the hotel and had been for some time (albeit to us it was just a normal door, with no hotel name or any indication of it been a hotel) and we were shown to our room.  Casa Do Pinheiro, a small family run hotel, where the man of the house seemed to be into his hunting.  Now, whilst some may appreciate staring up at the large heads of dead, stuffed animals, I’m not that keen.

Ponte De Lima was a small town, with a medieval feel, said to be one of the oldest towns in Portugal which was significant back in the Roman times.  There were several historical places of interest in the town, yet we had no interest in them, instead we were keen to head off to the Garden Festival in the Jardim dos Labirintos over the bridge on the other side of town.  The town itself was exceptionally pretty and it seemed to be preparing for some kind of fiesta, market stalls selling trinkets and local goods were scattered along the river and fairground rides were in the process of setting up, but that aside, apart from a couple of cafe’s and restaurants there wasn’t much else here.

Walking along the river we stopped to admire the views and noticed how some people who were enjoying a BBQ on the rivers edge where been moved on by the police, this seemed to provide a fair bit of entertainment for passers by for quite some time.

Inside Jardim dos Labirintos we lost track of time walking through several artistic garden exhibits.  Each exhibit had an introduction explaining what the artist was trying to express through their garden.  Exhibits ranged from gardens with instruments, picnicking with the animals (not real ones), enjoying the circus, using your senses, playing on the bandstand to partying with disco balls, all of which were expressed through plants and various props.  We spent time in each exhibit, trying to get a feel for what the artist was expressing, interacting where we could and criticising where we felt fit, we were having a ball, but before we knew it a voice over the tannoy announced that the park was closing, leaving us just enough time to vote for our favourite.  Eventhough I enjoyed playing the tubes, we gave our vote to the garden of the senses, it was the only one that really focused on what a garden should be about……plants……this garden exhibit focused on the plants through touch, taste and smell etc.  It turned out it was the favourite last year two, proving perhaps what we all feel the real use of a garden should be for…..not just looking pretty!

It only seemed right that before we exit Portugal we should tuck into a Cataplana at the amazing restaurant, Petiscas.  Olof and I had made a Cataplana on a cooking course a few years ago, and despite several previous trips to Portugal we had never actually eaten this traditional dish it’s home country, it was delicious.  Our time in Portugal was almost over and whilst we had enjoyed our stays in it’s central and northern towns and cities we were ready to get back into the countryside.