Visiting the birthplace of Portugal

Trip Start Jun 06, 2014
Trip End Jun 21, 2014

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Flag of Portugal  , Northern Portugal,
Wednesday, June 18, 2014

We left the river boat for the last time today. As our luggage was being transferred to our Porto hotel we left via bus to the city of Guimaraes, located about one hour north of Porto. Never heard of it until today. We learned that it claims to be the birthplace of the country of Portugal because the first king of Portugal, Alfonso I, ruled from Guimaraes. We visited the remains of the castle and church which date back to the 12th century. We also learned that it was the Portuguese who introduced tea to the British. The British became tea drinkers while the Portuguese maintained their love of coffee. 

Guaimaraes is a city of about 70,000 people and was delightful.  The old town of the city is where we spent our time on cobble stone streets without cars, old church belfries ringing on the quarter hour, small shops selling crafts, pastries, tapas, etc. It was a harbor of serenity in a sea of urban noise. We visited the restored castle of the first king of Portugal.  It was full of large tapestries, period furniture, ceramic bowls, dishes, and ornate rugs on display. 

Lunch was in a manor home that has been converted to a restaurant. Generous servings of local wine and Portuguese food were served in a second floor room that seated 120 people. I wonder what the room was originally used for.

We returned to Porto and to the Pousada do Porto (Freixo Palace Hotel), our riverfront home for the next two nights.  It is one of the truly unique hotels in the world. The reception area, bar and dining area are in a manor house built in 1742!  The hotel rooms are in an adjacent building that was originally a manufacturing plant. The original chimney for an kiln(?) still stands next as a symbol of the property. The 87 rooms are beautifully done; definitely a 5 star property and a great way to end the trip.

There was no group meal planned for the evening so we used it as an opportunity to venture in Porto in search of an authentic Portuguese restaurant that served a special recipe that Ron remembers his mother making.  It was made of pork, potatoes, clams and coriander. The addition of clams were a surprise.  After searching the guide books, asking the local guides, and making a few phone calls we found a restaurant on the river that made this particular recipe. Another couple we had met joined us and off we went to seek it out. Restaurants here do not even open until 7:30 PM so we wandered around a bit shopping and stopping for yet another liter (actually 2) of sangria, and since we hadn't eaten for at least 4 hours we had a few tapas to wash down the sangria. There were several different buskers entertaining the crowd so it was a pleasant way of passing the hour before dinner.

Once we found the restaurant-not easy to do in a town where they are mostly small, hole-in-the-wall places, we completed the evening with a memorable Portuguese meal. Ron and Yvonne had the special pork dish, Marlene had the salmon (as good as Seattle salmon), I wanted to try the octopus which people raved about and the third couple had a seafood stew. The octopus tentacles were the most tender I have ever had. It dish was accompanied by mashed potatoes that were infused with bits of bacon and tomato, a great complement.  Two bottles of $15 white Portuguese wine completed the feast. Our table was near the open window overlooking the river and strolling musicians provided the entertainment. All agreed it was a wonderful meal!

I am sure you have noted that this blog is one day late. Returning from the restaurant and all that food and wine resulted in an "early to bed" end of the day.........
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Annette Landvatter on

Although the food pictured looks fabulous and tasty, I am sorry, I just don't have what it takes to try it!!

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