FIGHTING DRAGONS

My next stop : Quinta de Paco D'Anha, Portugal

My next stop : Quinta (Farm) do Paco D’Anha, Portugal

Leaving the vineyards of western Spain behind I travelled down the coast into Portugal, heading for Viana do Castelo.   Here I stayed in paradise – on an old vineyard called Paco D’Anha which I will write about in my next post. I was to have many blissful days there, but I also had to fight my dragons. We all have a magic box, where we keep certain skills that come naturally and easily to us. Others may envy us those skills, though they have a magic box of their own which is probably quite different to ours. I can deliver a speech to a hall full of people, have handled risky and potentially very dangerous situations as a probation officer and am usually confident and sensible in emergencies, all of which may be challenging for other people. However we all also have our dragons to fight. Some things that may come very easily to others can be challenging for me.   One of my dragons is my driving skills. I do not like driving far, have no sense of direction when in a fix, and make common-sense errors which can get me into trouble. On my journey this meant that I once took a silly left turn, ended up on a cliff path walk and had to slowly reverse back under the amused gaze of locals.   I also glibly followed my GPS home one evening on a short cut through Spanish vineyards and quite literally became stuck when the road morphed into a track then narrowed down to a small path. Looking behind me I realised I could never reverse back along the narrow winding track which had a significant drop beside it.   I had no idea how to get out of the situation and was only saved because several kind people emerged from their farms and, crowding around the car, slowly directed me through a numerous-point turn.   I just knew that my husband would never have got himself into those situations because his sense of direction and common-sense are tools sitting there in his magic box. Normally I can avoid these dragons and turn to someone else to drive in a difficult spot. On my journey I had to face them, and other challenges, alone. Driving into Portugal the sunny weather I had enjoyed for weeks disappeared, to be replaced by thick, impassable fog and miserable, drizzling rain which made for dire visibility and treacherous roads.

I had to drive in these conditions. I could not hand over to someone else. I did it.

As I travelled I could not believe that my GPS estimated such a short journey, finally showing less than an hour to my arrival when I knew I was many kilometres away. Then it started going backwards! My heart sank. The GPS had broken. Whatever would I do without it? Panic started to set in and common sense did not kick in for some time.

I finally worked out that Portugal was on a different time zone to Spain.

When I arrived at the unmanned border foreign cars were directed to a machine which photographed the registration plate and took your credit card details to pay for your use of the roads. I could not get the machine to take any of my cards and so had to drive some way through huge silver arches which flashed as I passed, clocking up unpaid tolls and, I imagined, a fine. This became a very tricky problem to resolve as most Portuguese people pay an annual road fee through their bank account so could not advise me. It took several days and eventually meant buying toll credit in a post office where no one spoke English, receiving a receipt slip in Portuguese and putting the credit, connected to my car registration, on my mobile phone.

It was not easy to solve this, but I did it.

The Funicular up to Mont Santa Luzia

The Funicular up to Mont Santa Luzia

In Viana do Castelo pretty much the main tourist attraction is to take the funicular railway up Mount Santa Luzia to see the sanctuary and views from the crest. When I went to the station the railway was closed for repairs and I thought it was impossible to get to the top. Then I noticed that my town map showed what looked like a small track climbing up to the peak. I looked up in dread at the rise and almost abandoned the whole idea. Then I thought “it is either drive up that mount or miss this experience”.

Taking my courage in my hands I drove up to the summit.

The road was fine. It was not as difficult as I had feared. I did it, and I had a wonderful time.

Now, other people may scoff at my dragons, but for me overcoming these obstacles represented big achievements and more life lessons in confronting my fears, which are often over-exaggerated in any case, and knowing that I can find solutions to problems myself rather than automatically turning to others. Here is what I saw at the top of the hill ….   I later discovered that a 1927 article in The National Geographic magazine asserted that ‘Santa Luzia is blessed with one of the world’s finest panoramas, perhaps bettered only by those of Funchal and Rio de Janeiro, both in Portuguese speaking countries’. One of the world’s best views? And to think I could have missed it.

Santa Luzia Sanctuary is at an altitude of about 220 metres

At the summit : Santa Luzia Sanctuary

Santa Luzia was designed to resemble the Sacre Coeur in Paris

Santa Luzia was designed to resemble the Sacre Coeur in Paris

The building is said to be in a 'Neo-Byzantine' style

The building is said to be ‘Neo-Byzantine’

The view IS indeed spectacular, looking down onto the River Lima estuary as it feeds into the sea

The view IS indeed spectacular, here looking down onto the River Lima estuary as it feeds into the sea

I took the 30 metre elevator up to the top of a tower and from there had a dizzying 360 degree view of the town, river and coastline.

At the top of the dome.

At the top of the tower.

Looking down at the Atlantic coast

Looking down at the Atlantic coast

Inside the sanctuary I caught my breath at the unexpected light within. Sunlight enters through the magnificent stained glass rose windows, the walls are pale stone, and the exquisite dome over the altar area is filled with pretty pastel-coloured angelic frescoes. A marvellous sight.

Inside the beautiful sanctuary

Inside the luminous sanctuary

The pretty frescoes over the altar

The uplifting frescoes over the altar

Glorious trumpeting angels

Glorious trumpeting angels

The dome's cupola and diamond-like chandalier

The dome’s cupola and diamond-like chandalier

More jewel hues, in the sapphire rose window

More jewel hues, in the sapphire rose window

Only by continuing to fight our dragons courageously, whatever they may be, can we domesticate them, until gradually the challenges they represent no longer hold us back in life. Another life lesson the experiences on my Journey revealed to me with greater clarity.

– * –

 Note: I have now completed this first Journey around Europe alone, and am back home in France, where my French home borders Geneva, Switzerland. I still want to catch up on the stories of my travels so I will continue to write about them here.  MK

Comments
2 Responses to “FIGHTING DRAGONS”
  1. joan says:

    Wow this has caused me to confront very real dragons.
    I am recently widowed and have had to move home, I have been feeling lonely and sorry for myself. However, reading your story about dragons has given me renewed determination to face the world and learn to cope.
    Thanks for your inspiration.
    Joan

    • I am thrilled that this post spoke to you at such a time, Joan. I hope that you continue to find inspiration, determination and courage to move forwards, you brave lady. From what you say I think you will make it. My good wishes are sent to you.

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