We headed out early from Salamanca due west. Our goal was to be in Porto, Portugal by the end of the day.
As we passed easily from Spain into Portugal, we noticed how nice the highways were. To be clear, Spain has great highways (better than most US interstates), but Portugal’s were even nicer. Smooth pavement, clearly marked signage, low traffic.
We quickly found out why they were so nice and there were so few cars. Nearly every highway in Portugal is tolled!
There were a few stretches for ~50 miles or so that weren’t tolled. But as you approached any major city the tollbooths came into view. We must have spent at least $200 or more on tolls in Portugal.
As the morning wore on, we approached a city with a cool looking cathedral on a hill. We decided to pull over and go check it out.
Guarda is a small city of 42,000 in a hilly region near the border with Spain. It was founded by King Sancho I in 1199. The main attraction is the cathedral.
Catedral da Guarda (Sé da Guarda)
On this trip I used Google Maps heavily. I clicked on the cathedral and let Maps guide me, and it worked flawlessly. However, these old towns have tiny streets all throughout, many one-way and even across public squares. My rule was that if I saw other cars, I just kept going. Up and up we went, and soon we turned a corner, drove across the main square, and parked right in front of the church. Rock star parking! Thank god we had a small car.
The cathedral construction began in 1199, and completed around 1550, and is a mix of Gothic and Manueline architectural styles. We entered the church, and to our delight, found we could climb a cylindrical staircase up to the the roof! That’s our second directive – climb everything we can.
After taking several cool photos on the church rooftop, we stopped at a cafe on the square for a coffee. Then we were back in the car and off to Porto.