The approach to the beautiful town of Ponte de Lima meanders through the tiny hamlets of Anta, Bouça, Paço, Pereira, and Barros, which seemed to merge into one as I drifted through them. This five-kilometer portion of the Camino parallels the Rio Lima, and it transitions from fields with sheep and goats to woodland pathways to apple orchards and vineyards where vines are supported by rows of ancient slabs of granite, sticking up from the ground like three-meter stone fingers. Finally, I found myself on the cobblestone promenade of the narrow park that runs along the Lima River and skirts the entire northern side of Ponte de Lima. Giant plane trees were planted on both sides of the promenade, creating a natural canopy. The trees had grown to 150 feet, as the riparian location was perfect for this species of deciduous trees, which thrive in wetland locations. I stopped and sat on a park bench and decided that the spot was one of the loveliest riverside locations anywhere. There, along the sandy banks of the Lima River, a farmer’s market pops up every two weeks that is said to be the oldest outdoor market in Portugal. In addition to fresh produce, vendors sell textiles, cheap clothing, and household goods in a relaxed atmosphere created by the languidly flowing river and the medieval character of the town. There was no market on that cold February day, and the promenade had just a few people strolling along it. I glanced down the length of the Lima River at the medieval stone bridge (for which the town was named) that was part of the Camino route. I would cross over it the following day. Beautifully proportioned, the three-hundred-meter bridge was rebuilt in the fourteenth century on top of old Roman foundations.
I got off the park bench and continued down the wide promenade as a small municipal service truck drove past me, going in the other direction. “Bom Caminho,” said the driver to me as he puttered along. Shortly after, I came upon the sixteenth-century church Igreja de São Francisco e São António dos Capuchos, where a small religious art and artifacts museum was located in the former convent. I marveled at the intricate baroque façade of the Museu dos Terceiros and was disappointed that it was closed. I thought perhaps I might visit it the next day.
Situated directly on the promenade, the new Hotel Império do Norte looked as if it had been designed by Frank Lloyd Wright—all glass and white stucco on the outside of a minimalist modular building with dozens of international flags waving at the entrance, softening the look of the sterile façade. I ambled up to the reception desk and, after producing my pilgrim credentials and passport, booked a spacious modern room for just thirty-five euros. It was midafternoon, so I had time to take a short discovery loop around the picturesque town of Ponte de Lima. Just a block from the hotel, I found the sixteenth century prison tower, the Torre da Cadeia, which is now a tourist information center and library. There were statues all over the town, and the one I liked best was a massive bronze of a bull standing defensively with his head down and his horns pointed straight ahead. The bull was in front of a fifteenth-century Romanesque parish church, the Igreja Matriz. I made my way toward the banks of the Lima River, where I found ten-foot-tall wooden models of Roman soldiers standing erect in formation facing the river. Later I learned the story of how these centurions refused to cross the River Lima when they first came upon it. The Roman soldiers thought they had discovered the legendary River Lethe. The myth about this river was that anyone who crossed it would have all his memories erased, so they refused. The captain of the Roman soldiers had to call each soldier by name, and they crossed the river one at a time.
From "Portuguese Camino - In Search of the Infinite Moment"