This morning, we left Porto and our comfy hotel to head to the town of Guimaraes, the birthplace of Portugal, as it is known, because Portugal’s first king- Alfonso Henriques was born here and the major decisive battle that gave Portugal it’s true independence was fought here….and it was Alfonso Henriques vs. his own MOTHER, Queen Theresa in 1128. Talk about family problems.
We were here to see the small, but incredible castle in town. I found it interesting because there was literally a 3 story tower castle built in the center and defensive walls and towers surrounding, with space in between and a wooden bridge connecting the two. I dont have great photos because I left my camera’s memory card in my laptop last night. Doh! Seems to happen once every vacation. Today was the day. I tried to retrace our steps and get a few photos with my phone once I realized it.
Inside the tower was pretty cool. They had a historical timeline and a replica of the original treaty that created Portugal.
Alfonso Henriques was actually born in this castle…they had a very life-like cardboard cutout of him inside. Who knows if this is really what he looked like or not since he lived in the 1100s.
They even had a little corner for kids. Norah was obsessed with wearing this helmet and holding the sword even though she was a little too short to get her big head into the helmet. ha
She said “hey mamma. Take my picture with the Kings. It’s like three kings of Portugal and Queen Norah of Portugal.” well, at least she’s grounded. lol She also told our Uber driver the other day that he would see her on TV one day. and then told another waiter she was going to be President one day. The kid’s got goals.
On our way out of town we did a drive by of the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Consolação e Santos Passos, a beautiful church from the 1300s and manicured garden square
We were now headed to the city of Braga to see the Bom Jesus do Monte church, one of the most famous sites in Portugal.
This church was constructed as a pilgrimage site. People still come to this day and climb all the steps on their knees, praying at each station of the cross on the way up.
However, for those of us that just enjoy the architecture of cathedrals, they have a funicular tram that is completely energy neutral and water powered that has been running since the 1800s that can take you to the top of the hill.
After Bom Jesus, we crossed over to Spain to visit some celtic ruins that had been too far out along the coast on a previous visit to Spain, so we had skipped them previously… but going up the north coast of Portugal made it just an hour or two away… so we visited. The site is in a town area of A Guarda and is called Santa Tegra.
The people indigenous to this area for 2000 years prior to the Romans conquering the area around 19 BC were Celtic. Celt-iberian to be exact… but Celtic. Their local Iberian culture of housing, jewelry, etc was called Castro culture.. and these round hut houses are now called Castros. Supposedly this mountain-side city of possibly up to 3000 of these houses was the last holdout against Roman forces on the peninsula. Classical writers like Pliny the Elder wrote of the Celts at “Mount Medulio” and a heroic last stand here. Medulio meaning Golden… and the largest gold mine in Roman civilization history, Las Medulas is less than 100 miles from here… (we visited it on our last trip to Spain)
It’s easy to see why this high point surrounded by ocean and the mouth of a large river on 3 sides would have been selected for strategy and safety.
They have reconstructed 2 of the castro houses to show what they would have looked like.
After Santa Tegra, we headed towards our hotel. It was out in the mountains..and being honest was pretty terrible. Not bed bugs terrible, but just like someone built this nice fancy modern spa hotel 10 years ago and then hasn’t done a bit of upkeep since. The parking was far away and bags had to be carried up a steep hill and no offer for assistance because the hotel literally had 3 people working the whole place. Carpets all stained up, keypads for the room lights and stuff shorting out. Restaurant offered like 5 dishes and there was literally one guy running the entire thing… no iron in the room, no extra pillows or blanket for the pull out couch for Norah. Like I said, nothing GROSS…. just annoyance after annoyance. Trying to be super fancy… but just not pulling it off. ha BUT- they did have an small indoor pool in the spa area. I normally wouldn’t have let her swim in the spa… but it was empty and their info had kid hours, so I let her. Definitely the highlight of her trip.. except maybe the McDonalds. haha She spent an hour and a half in the pool until the end of the kid hours, then we sat around for an hour and a half waiting on the restaurant to open.
They eat sooooo late here. ha First table we could get was 7:30. and it takes every bit of 2 hours to eat in Spain… so you end up going to sleep with a giant belly of food. Definitely couldn’t do it every day.
They only had a couple starters, so we both got Cream of Asparagus soup with a quail egg.
I had the octopus, of course. ha I’m obsessed.
Kegan had the baked codfish (Bacalhau), which he said had great flavor but was full of bones that he wasn’t thrilled about.
All in all, a good day with lots of sites. Tomorrow’s day…being honest… is mostly just to get us back into the north of Spain where there is a restaurant that is considered by some to have the best steak in the world: El Capricho. I made reservations 3 months ago. haha So…. more about that on Thursday when we eat a late lunch there… Wednesday will be lots of scenery of the northern mountains and forests of Spain and a stay in a tiny rural village in a remodeled 500 year old house.