Now that I have gotten to know Spain a little better, I was excited by the opportunity to conquer a bit more of the Iberian peninsula with a trip to Portugal. Téresa, Fran, and Paula invited me to join them on a visit to the border town of Villa Nova where there is a popular market on weekends. I sat in the backseat of the car with my passport at the ready in my purse, but when we casually flew by the frontera I started to flash back to clandestine ventures into Brasil and Paraguay! Apparently border control is quite relaxed here, and even if you bother to stop at the aduana, the customs office, it's likely that you'll be the only one there.
Vila Nova is perched on the río miño that divides Spain and Portugal, where twin forts reminisce the days when the border still required patrolling. Today, the forts have been replaced by a single boat that appears to employ fewer staff than the customs office. The town itself is charming. There is a path along the river and there are many sculptures created by the local art school--including a deer motif because the municipality is called Cerveira. At the market I joined some señoras in a fight for discounted brand-name clothing. Any town with a market is for me!
Not far from Vila Nova, the town of Villazón is woven into a fortress that was once strategically and is now scenically situated on a hill overlooking the river. Between the architecture and the view, this town is a local favorite. We strolled the fort walls, browsed the shops, and partook in the savory Portuguese café before heading back to Spain.